George Frideric Handel Ariodante
Dramma per musica in three acts, HWV 33 (1734)
Libretto by an anonymous author after Antonio Salvi’s Libretto Ginevra, principessa di Scozia (1708) after Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso (cantos IV-VI)
Sung in Italian with German and English surtitles
Print programme (PDF)
Charming scenes in a sunlit garden sit alongside wicked schemes concocted in the dead of night. Cheerfulness and optimism contrast with gloom and despair. Arcadian pleasure keels over into nightmarish fright. A master of musical contrast, George Frideric Handel pulled out all the operatic stops in Ariodante, brilliantly showcasing avowals of love and power in all their various forms. In so doing, the German composer and impresario, who had enjoyed success with his London opera company during the 1720s, was fighting for his artistic survival. Enthusiasm for Italian opera had waned and Handel was facing fierce competition from a rival promoter.
While caught in this quandary, the composer was presented in early 1735 with the opportunity to put on a new opera at the Theatre Royal, which had opened in Covent Garden two years previously. In order to entice his English audience, Handel took up a Scottish theme and augmented the action of the opera with ballets. The story is based on a scene from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso: Ariodante comes with his brother Lurcanio to the court of the Scottish King and falls in love with Ginevra, the King’s daughter. But Polinesso has also cast his eye on her…