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Dramma per musica in three acts
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi, scenario by Aaron Hill after Torquato Tasso's epos La Gerusalemme liberata (1574)First performance of 1st edition February 24 1711, Queen’s Theatre Haymarket, London
Sung in Italian with German surtitles
ca. 3 hours, including 1 interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins 30 minutes before every performance
Rinaldo, the strongest warrior in Goffredo's army, goes into battle. Only when he returns victorious is he allowed to marry his beloved Almirena, Goffredo's daughter. The enemy Amazon Armida sees Rinaldo's achilles heel in his being torn between giving in to his emotions and doing his duty: she abducts Almirena and tries to win the hero's heart with magic. But Rinaldo resists her seductive charms. When her ally and lover Argante falls for Almirena, she summons terrifying forces to her aid.
26 year old George Frideric Handel's first opera composed in England caused a sensation. Never before had entertainment hungry London audiences experienced such spectacular Italian opera. Scenic extravagance included flying machines, lightning, thunder, fireworks and live sparrows - extraordinary theatrical effects. Handel's music, with its colourful, rich instrumentation, effective contrasts and virtuoso roles, convincingly portrays the situations and emotions of the characters. Arias like Cara sposa and Lascia ch'io pianga left nobody unmoved. The ambitious young threesome Handel, theatre entrepreneur Hill and librettist Rossi managed to bring an exciting story about private and political interests successfully to the stage.
Act 1 General Goffredo reminds the warrior Rinaldo and his troops that the path to glory is difficult, demanding much personal sacrifice. Before Goffredo will consent to the marriage between his daughter Almirena and Rinaldo, Rinaldo must first beat their enemy King Argante, in battle. This postponement is hard for Rinaldo to bear. Argante arrives in the camp to ask for a three day ceasefire. Goffredo grants this request, adding that he fears nothing from Argante or his army, because virtue is on his side. Argante's lover, the sorceress Armida, appears with her Furies. She tells Argante about a prophesy she received that Rinaldo must be eliminated in order to defeat his army. She hatches a plot to lure the warrior away from his troops. Almirena, wandering in an enchanted forest, is met by her love, Rinaldo. Armida abducts Almirena. Rinaldo is heartbroken that his love has been so cruelly taken. Goffredo and his brother Eustazio convince Rinaldo that he must be strong and attack Armida. Interval Act 2 Rinaldo, Goffredo and the army climb a steep cliff to reach Armida's realm. At the summit they encounter a magical lake, where Sirens lure Rinaldo, promising to lead him to Almirena. He follows them, taking no heed of Goffredo and Eustazio's words of caution. The imprisoned Almirena bemoans her fate, which moves Argante. He admits his love for her but says he cannot set her free while she is under Armida's control. Armida, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Rinaldo, who rejects her. When she transforms herself into Almirena, Rinaldo sees through her deception and turns away from her in disgust. Armida is overwhelmed by her emotions. Argante approaches – confessing his love for the false Almirena. Armida explodes in fury. Act 3 Armida moves to kill Almirena. Rinaldo begs her to be merciful and Goffredo's troops free the lovers just in time. Armida disappears. Almirena urges Rinaldo to keep fighting so that they can be together at last. Armida and Argante make up after a long argument and prepare themselves for battle. Rinaldo, for whom Almirena has again pledged her love, is determined to return from war victorious.