In five acts by GLUCK.
Text by PHIL. QUINAULT.
The poet Quinault wrote the libretto of this opera for another
composer, Lully, but almost one hundred years later, Gluck, recognizing
the genuine richness of this French production, availed himself of it
for an opera, the music of which is so sublime, that it will for ever
be considered classic.
The libretto is founded on an episode of Tasso's "Gerusalemme liberata".
The scene is laid in Damascus, where during the Crusade of the year
1099, the Crusaders have arrived at the place and gardens of Armida,
the Queen and enchantress. Rinaldo, the greatest hero in Godfrey of
Bouillon's army, is the only one, who not only does not stop
to adore the beautiful Armida, but on the
contrary pursues and hates her. He has been banished from
Bouillon's presence charged with the rash deed of another knight, who
has not dared to confess his guilt and he now wanders lonely in the
Warned by a fellow-warrior, Artemidor, to avoid Armida's enchanting
presence he scorns the warning, saying that love for a woman is to him
a thing unknown. In reality however Armida is already ensnaring him
with her sorcery, he presently hears exquisitely sweet and dreamy
melodies and finding himself in a soft, green valley, he lies down and
Armida's opportunity has come and she means to stab him, but love
conquers hatred and the dagger sinks from her hand. She vainly invokes
the furies of hate; none can change her passion for the hero and at
last, ceasing to strive against her tender feelings, she surrenders
herself entirely to him and even succeeds by her charms and her
devotion in enthralling him. Meanwhile Bouillon has sent two of his
knights, Ubalt and a Danish warrior, to recall Rinaldo to his duty.
They are detained by Armida's witchery; the Danish knight meets a
demon, who has taken his bride's face and tenderly calls him to her,
but Ubalt destroys the charm and both succeed in approaching Rinaldo,
who, his love-dream dissipated by the call of honor, resolves to return
to the army with his companions. In vain Armida tries to change his
resolution. In despair she curses him and her love, but being unable
to kill the man she loves, she suffers him to go away and turns her
beautiful place and gardens into a desert.
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