Atalanta is a pastoral opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel composed in 1736. It is based upon the mythological female athlete, the libretto being derived from the book La Caccia in Etolia by Belisario Valeriani; the identity of the librettist is not known. Handel composed it for the London celebrations of the marriage in 1736 of Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King George II, to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha; the first performance took place on 12 May 1736 in the Covent Garden Theatre. It closed with a spectacular display of fireworks, popular with the royal family and the London audience, the opera and fireworks display were revived a number of times in the year of its first performance. An arioso from the opera, "Care selve", is heard in recital and on recordings; the German-born Handel had brought Italian opera to London stages for the first time in 1711 with his opera Rinaldo. An enormous success, Rinaldo created a craze in London for Italian opera seria, a form focused overwhelmingly on solo arias for the star virtuoso singers.
Handel had presented new operas in London for years with great success. One of the major attractions in Handel's operas was the star castrato Senesino whose relationship with the composer was stormy and who left Handel's company to appear with the rival Opera of the Nobility, set up in 1733 and with the Prince of Wales as a major sponsor. Handel moved to another theatre, Covent Garden, engaged different singers, but there was not enough of an audience for opera in London, or aristocratic supporters to back it, for two opera houses at once, both opera companies found themselves in difficulty. Handel's spring season of 1736 was shorter than usual because of these difficulties, but when the wedding of the Prince of Wales was announced he prepared an opera in celebration, his rival Nicola Porpora did the same. Neither work was ready for performance by the day of the wedding itself, 27 April 1736, Porpora's work premiered on 4 May; the premiere of Atalanta on 12 May was attended by the King and Queen but not by their son the Prince of Wales and his new wife.
Atalanta was a more light-hearted and celebratory work than many of his other opera seria, along the same lines as his popular piece Il Pastor Fido which he had revived. The celebrations for the royal marriage at the end of the piece with an onstage fireworks display created a sensation. Poet Thomas Gray wrote to Horace Walpole:... the last act...there appears the Temple of Hymen with illuminations. Loosely based on the mythological story of Atalanta, the opera is set in legendary times of ancient Greece. King Meleagro of Aetolia has disguised himself as a shepherd, taking the pseudonym Tirsi, is enjoying his life in the countryside away from the cares of state, he is much in love with the huntress "Amarilli", whom he does not realise is the Princess Atalanta. He meets up with Aminta, a real shepherd, in love with the shepherdess Irene, who however when she appears, does nothing but pour scorn on Aminta, he will always be faithful to her. Nicandro, Irene's father and Meleagro's friend, tells Meleagro that Irene loves Aminta too but she wants to be sure that he will be true to her.
Princess Atalanta of Arcadia now comes on to the scene. She too has taken another name and has retreated to the country disguised as a huntress. Everyone prepares to go hunting, but Atalanta will not permit Meleagro to remain by her side during the hunt, although she is in love with him; when a wild boar comes running out of the woods, Aminta tries to throw himself into its path, so distraught is he by Irene's seeming rejection, but the others prevent him. Atalanta kills the boar and rejoices in her triumph. Everyone is celebrating Atalanta's triumph in killing the wild boar, but she herself is feeling sad because she is in love with "Tirsi"; however she, a princess in disguise, cannot marry the simple shepherd "Tirsi", who she does not realise is King Meleagro, in disguise himself. Meleagro overhears her musing on this unfortunate state of affairs and tries to make his identity known to her but he is painfully shy and so is she and so they do not manage to clear things up. Irene pretends to be in love with Meleagro.
Meleagro gives Irene a ribbon and asks her to give it to Atalanta and tell her how much he loves her. Irene flaunts the ribbon Meleagro has given her to Aminta, pretending that she is in love with Meleagro. Aminta protests against her cruelty. Atalanta gives Aminta an arrow which she asks him to present to Meleagro without mentioning her name. Meleagro knows she is in love with him and is quite cheerful, but Atalanta feels that her duty will prevent her from confessing her love for him. Irene presents Atalanta with the ribbon. Atalanta sends word to Meleagro that he can learn all about her through Aminta. Irene encounters Aminta, who decides to give her some of her own medicine by flaunting the arrow Atalanta gave to him to give to Meleagro. Aminta says Atalanta gave the arrow to him because she is madly in love with him and he loves her too. Irene is furious and Meleagro, watching and listening to this unobserved, is in despair. Irene confesses.
Arminio is an opera composed by George Frideric Handel. The libretto is based on a libretto of the same name by Antonio Salvi, set to music by Alessandro Scarlatti, it is a fictionalisation of events surrounding the Germanic leader Arminius, who defeated the Romans under Publius Quinctilius Varus in AD 9, his wife Thusnelda. The opera was performed for the first time at the Covent Garden Theatre on 12 January 1737; the German-born Handel had brought Italian opera to London stages for the first time in 1711 with his opera Rinaldo. An enormous success, Rinaldo created a craze in London for Italian opera seria, a form focused overwhelmingly on solo arias for the star virtuoso singers. Handel had presented new operas in London for years with great success. One of the major attractions in Handel's operas was the star castrato Senesino whose relationship with the composer was stormy and who left Handel's company to appear with the rival Opera of the Nobility, set up in 1733 and with the Prince of Wales as a major sponsor.
Handel moved to another theatre, Covent Garden, engaged different singers, but there was not enough of an audience for opera in London, or aristocratic supporters to back it, for two opera houses at once, both opera companies found themselves in difficulty. Together with Giustino and Berenice, Arminio is one of three operas Handel wrote within a period of half a year in 1736, he began with the composition of Giustino on 14 August 1736, followed by that of Arminio on 15 September. Having finished Arminio he resumed work on Giustino. In Mid-December, he went on to compose Berenice. Giustino followed Arminio on to the stage in February; the opera was esteemed by Handel's admirers but not by the ticket-buying public. Anthony Ashley Cooper, 4th Earl of Shaftesbury wrote in a letter that he found Arminio to be "rather grave but correct and labour'd" "to the highest degree & is a favourite one with Handel.... But I fear'twill not be acted long; the Town dont much admire it."Arminio only saw six performances, the last one on 12 February.
It was not performed again until it was revived at Leipzig. With the revival of interest in Baroque music and informed musical performance since the 1960s, like all Handel operas, is performed at festivals and opera houses today. Among other productions, the opera was staged by the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe in 2016. Place:Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Time: 9 A. D. Arminio, chieftain of a Germanic tribe who has taken up arms to fight against the Roman invasion of his country, yields to his wife Tusnelda's entreaties to retire from the field of battle lest they should both be taken prisoner.. They leave as Tullio enter. Tullio informs the Roman general Varo that Arminio has retreated and Varo reveals that he is in love with Arminio's wife Tusnelda. Tullio advises him to forget about such an unworthy passion and fight for Rome's triumph instead but Varo responds that love can inspire great feats of glory. Arminio appears, in chains, captured by Segeste, a Germanic chieftain, collaborating with the Romans and is Arminio's father-in-law.
Arminio denounces Segeste for his treachery and Tusnelda is torn between loyalty to her husband and her father. Varo demands that Arminio accept subjugation to Rome, but Arminio insists he would rather die and is taken away. Segeste advises; the scene changes to the castle of Segeste, where Sigismondo, his son, has been dreaming of Ramise, Arminio's sister, with whom he is madly in love. She and Tusnelda appear on the scene and Tusnelda informs them that her father Segeste has handed Arminio over to the Romans. Ramise is distressed by the threat to her brother's life; when Sigismondo asks Tusnelda for sympathy in this situation, she points out that his dilemma is nothing as to hers, torn as she is between loyalty to her husband and her father. Segeste commands his son to abandon any hope of wedding Ramise but Sigismondo asserts that he would prefer to die. Tullio informs Segeste that the Roman general Varo is in love with his daughter and Arminio's wife Tusnelda. Segeste is happy to hear it and looks forward to Varo becoming his new son-in-law once Arminio is dead.
Varo appears with a letter from Caesar ordering Arminio's execution and Segeste is eager for this to occur. Arminio once is thrown into prison under sentence of death. Tusnelda is beside herself with grief. Ramise denounces Segeste for collaborating with the Romans and sending her brother Arminio to execution and attempts to stab him. Sigismondo intervenes however and saves his father's life, whereupon Ramise bitterly upbraids him. Sigismondo attempts to kill himself but Ramise prevents him from doing so. Ramise is suffering from divided loyalties between her lover and her brother and Sigismondo is torn. Arminio, in prison, tells Varo that he knows that he loves his wife and gives his blessing for their marriage after his death, which he accepts. Tusnelda however tells Varo. Varo pledges to do this and Tusnelda swears to be grateful. Arminio is brought to his place of execution but still breathes defiance to Rome (Aria:Rit
Hercules is a Musical Drama in three acts by George Frideric Handel, composed in July and August 1744. The English language libretto was by the Reverend Thomas Broughton, based on Sophocles's Women of Trachis and the ninth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Hercules was first given at the King's Theatre in London on 5 January 1745 in concert style. There were only two performances in the original run; the role of Lichas was written first as a small one for tenor, but it was expanded before the premiere to provide Susanna Cibber with six airs. She was too ill to sing on the first night, the music was either omitted or redistributed on that occasion, she sang in the second performance on 12 January. The music for the chorus "Wanton God" and the air "Cease, ruler of the day" was never given in this opera: the latter was adapted for the final chorus of Theodora; the work caused Handel to suspend his season. Hercules obtained three further hearings, two in 1749 and one in 1752, for which the role of Lichas was eliminated, much of the other music was cut.
Hercules was performed in the theatre as an oratorio without stage action. It is argued that this contributed to its neglect as it did not make the transition into the church and the concert hall successfully; when staged it was reappraised and acclaimed by Romain Rolland, Henry Prunières, Paul Henry Lang and others as one of the supreme masterpieces of its age. The first modern performance was in Münster in 1925. Hercules is sometimes given a full opera staging, for example, in a Peter Sellars production at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 2011. Precis: When the great hero Hercules returns to his wife Dejanira after a long absence, bringing with him as a captive the beautiful Princess Iole, Dejanira becomes consumed with jealousy. In a misguided attempt to secure her husband's fidelity, she inadvertently causes his death and goes mad. Scene: Greece, in legendary antiquity Years before the action of the piece, Hercules killed the centaur Nessus as he tried to rape Hercules' wife Dejanira; as he died, Nessus gave Dejanira a cloak soaked with his blood, telling her she should give it to Hercules if she doubted his fidelity because if Hercules donned the cloak he would never look at another woman again.
A royal apartment Lichas, a royal herald, notices the inconsolable grief of Dejanira, sympathises. Dejanira is convinced that her husband, has been killed whilst on a military expedition that has kept him apart from her for more than a year. Hyllus, son of Dejanira and Hercules and reports that an oracle has been consulted and indicated that the hero is dead and the summits of Mount Oeta are ablaze with fire; the prophecy confirms Dejanira's fears and she longs to join her husband in death. The chorus comment on the devotion of Hercules' wife. Lichas arrives and announces that Hercules has returned alive after conquering Oechalia, much to the relief of Dejanira. Lichas is glad that despair has so turned to joy and the chorus reflect that one should never give up hope. A square before the Palace. Iole and Oechalian virgins, led captive Among the captives is the princess Iole of legendary beauty, she laments the loss of her freedom. Her predicament leaves Hyllus moved. Hercules enters to a march in the orchestra.
Despite having ravaged her country and sacrificed her father, Hercules reassures Iole that though in exile, she may consider herself free. Iole cannot forget her father's death, which she witnessed, prays that he may rest in peace. Hercules looks forward to enjoying domestic life after long martial activity; the chorus celebrate Hercules' glorious accomplishments. An apartment Iole desires a simple form of happiness far removed from the machinations of power. Meanwhile, convinced that Hercules has been unfaithful to her, believes Iole's beauty proves his betrayal though her suspicions are resolutely refuted by Iole. Lichas observes; the chorus reflect on the corrosive effects of jealousy. Hyllus, having declared his love to the captive princess, is rejected by her; the chorus reflect on the power of love. Another arpartment Dejanira accuses her husband of tainting his reputation, an accusation he rejects, she insists. Hercules advises his wife to put aside these unjust suspicions, but Dejanira is consumed with jealousy.
When Hercules is summoned to celebrate the rites of his victory, Dejanira gives Lichas a garment for her husband as a token of reconciliation. Lichas is pleased by this apparent sign of marital harmony (Air: Constant lovers
Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. Composed for the 1709–10 Venice Carnevale season, the opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of her son as emperor. Grimani's libretto, considered one of the best that Handel set, is an "anti-heroic satirical comedy", full of topical political allusions; some analysts believe that it reflects Grimani's political and diplomatic rivalry with Pope Clement XI. Handel composed Agrippina at the end of a three-year sojourn in Italy, it premiered in Venice at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo on 26 December 1709. It proved an unprecedented series of 27 consecutive performances followed. Observers praised the quality of the music—much of which, in keeping with the contemporary custom, had been borrowed and adapted from other works, including the works of other composers. Despite the evident public enthusiasm for the work, Handel did not promote further stagings.
There were occasional productions in the years following its premiere but Handel's operas, including Agrippina, fell out of fashion in the mid-18th century. In the 20th century Agrippina premiered in Britain and America. Performances of the work have become more common, with innovative stagings at the New York City Opera and the London Coliseum in 2007. Modern critical opinion is that Agrippina is Handel's first operatic masterpiece, full of freshness and musical invention which have made it one of the most popular operas of the ongoing Handel revival. Handel's earliest opera compositions, in the German style, date from his Hamburg years, 1704–06, under the influence of Johann Mattheson. In 1706 he traveled to Italy, he first settled in Florence where he was introduced to Domenico Scarlatti. His first opera composed in Italy, though still reflecting the influence of Hamburg and Mattheson, was Rodrigo, was presented there, it was not successful, but was part of Handel's process of learning to compose opera in the Italian style and to set Italian words to music.
Handel spent time in Rome, where the performance of opera was forbidden by Papal decree, in Naples. He applied himself to the composition of oratorios. Works from this period include Dixit Dominus and the dramatic cantata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, written in Naples. While in Rome through Alessandro Scarlatti, Handel had become acquainted with Cardinal Grimani, a distinguished diplomat who wrote libretti in his spare time, acted as an unofficial theatrical agent for the Italian royal courts, he was evidently asked him to set his new libretto, Agrippina. Grimani intended to present this opera at his family-owned theatre in Venice, the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, as part of the 1709–10 Carnevale season. Grimani's libretto is based on much the same story used as the subject of Monteverdi's 1642 opera L'incoronazione di Poppea. Grimani's libretto centres on Agrippina, a character who does not appear in Monteverdi's darker version. Grimani avoids the "moralizing" tone of the opera seria libretti written by such acknowledged masters as Metastasio and Zeno.
According to the critic Donald Jay Grout, "irony and intrigue pervade the humorous escapades of its well-defined characters." All the main characters, with the sole exception of Claudius's servant Lesbus, are historical, the broad outline of the libretto draws upon Tacitus's Annals and Suetonius' Life of Claudius. It has been suggested that the comical, amatory character of the Emperor Claudius is a caricature of Pope Clement XI, to whom Grimani was politically opposed. Certain aspects of this conflict are reflected in the plot: the rivalry between Nero and Otho mirror aspects of the debate over the War of the Spanish Succession, in which Grimani supported the Habsburgs and Pope Clement XI France and Spain. According to John Mainwaring, Handel's first biographer, Agrippina was composed in the three weeks following Handel's arrival in Venice in November 1709, a theory supported by the autograph manuscript's Venetian paper. In composing the opera Handel borrowed extensively from his earlier oratorios and cantatas, from other composers including Reinhard Keiser, Arcangelo Corelli and Jean-Baptiste Lully.
This practice of adapting and borrowing was common at the time but is carried to greater lengths in Agrippina than in all of Handel's other major dramatic works. The overture, a French-style two-part work with a "thrilling" allegro, all but five of the vocal numbers, are based on earlier works, though subject in many cases to significant adaptation and reworking. Examples of recycled material include Pallas's "Col raggio placido", based on Lucifer's aria from La resurrezione, "O voi dell'Erebo", itself adapted from Reinhard Keiser's 1705 opera Octavia. Agrippina's aria "Non ho cor che per amarti" was taken entirely unchanged, from "Se la morte non vorrà" in Handel's earlier dramatic cantata Qual ti reveggio, oh Dio; some of Agrippina's music was used by Handel in his London operas Rinaldo and the 1732 version of Acis and Galatea
Saul is a dramatic oratorio in three acts written by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Charles Jennens. Taken from the First Book of Samuel, the story of Saul focuses on the first king of Israel's relationship with his eventual successor, David; the work, which Handel composed in 1738, includes the famous "Dead March", a funeral anthem for Saul and his son Jonathan, some of the composer's most dramatic choral pieces. Saul was first performed at the King's Theatre in London on 16 January 1739; the work was revived by Handel in subsequent seasons. Notable modern-day performances of Saul include that at Glyndebourne in 2015; the German-born Handel had been resident in London since 1712 and had there enjoyed great success as a composer of Italian operas. His opportunities to set English texts to music had been more limited. In 1731, a performance of the 1718 version of Esther, a work in English based on a Biblical drama by Jean Racine, was given in London without Handel's participation and had proved popular, so Handel revised the work and planned to present it at the theatre where his Italian operas were being presented.
However the Bishop of London would not permit a drama based on a Biblical story to be acted out on the stage, therefore Handel presented Esther in concert form, thus giving birth to the English oratorio. Esther in its revised form proved a popular work, Handel, though still continuing to focus on composition of Italian operas, followed Esther with two more sacred dramas with English words to be presented in concert form and Athalia, both in 1733. By 1738, Handel was experiencing some difficulty in maintaining support for his Italian opera seasons in London and he collaborated for the first time with Charles Jennens, a wealthy landowner and lover of the arts, who provided the texts for Messiah and other oratorios of Handel. Jennens wrote Saul, an original English text based on Biblical characters designed to provide opportunities for the sort of music Handel composed. Opera seria, the form of Italian opera that Handel composed for London, focused overwhelmingly on solo arias and recitatives for the star singers and contained little else.
With the English oratorios Handel had the opportunity to mix operatic arias in English for the soloists with large choruses of the type that he used in the Coronation anthems. Jennens provided a text with dramatic effects; the collaboration with Jennens was not without tension. Jennens got his way. Handel composed the music of Saul between July and September 1738, he conceived Saul on the grandest scale and included a large orchestra with many instrumental effects which were unusual for the time including a carillon. In the same letter in which Jennens complained that Handel wanted a chorus of "Hallelujahs" at a point of the drama the writer felt was inappropriate, he wrote of a meeting he had with Handel to discuss the work and the composer's delight in some of the unusual instruments he planned to use: Mr. Handel's head is more full of Maggots than ever: I found yesterday in His room a queer Instrument which He calls Carillon & says some call it a Tubal-cain, I suppose because it is in the make and tone like a Hammer striking upon Anvils.'Tis played upon with Keys like a Harpsichord, & with this Cyclopean Instrument he designs to make poor Saul stark mad.
His second Maggot is an Organ of 500 £ price. I could tell you more of his Maggots: but it grows late, I must defer the rest till I write next. Of note in that letter is the fact that although Handel's London seasons of Italian opera had not been drawing the audiences they had in former years, Jennens makes an incidental remark that the composer was wealthy. On 5 December 1738 Lady Katherine Knatchbull, a friend and patron of Hand
Belshazzar is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel. The libretto was by Charles Jennens, Handel abridged it considerably. Jennens' libretto was based on the Biblical account of the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus the Great and the subsequent freeing of the Jewish nation, as found in the Book of Daniel. Handel composed Belshazzar in the late Summer of 1744 concurrently with Hercules, during a time that Winton Dean calls "the peak of Handel's creative life"; the work premiered the following Lenten season on 27 March 1745 at London. The work fell into neglect after Handel's death, with revivals of the work occurring in the United Kingdom in 1847, 1848 and 1873. With the revival of interest in Baroque music and informed musical performance since the 1960s, Belsahzzar receives performances in concert form today and is sometimes staged as an opera. Among other performances, Belshazzar was staged at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2008. Precis: Despite the warnings of his mother Queen Nitocris, King Belshazzar of Babylon commits sacrileges against the God of the Jews, who are in captivity there.
The city is besieged, Belshazzar is slain, the Jews are freed to return to their homeland by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Scene: Babylon, 538 BC; the city is being besieged by an army of Persians, led by Cyrus. The Palace in Babylon The Queen Mother Nitocris, mother of Belshazzar, muses on the changes than can affect the most powerful of human beings Nitocris has become convinced that the God of the Jews, who are being held in captivity in Babylon, is the true God, to Him she prays; the Jewish prophet Daniel, whom she has learnt to trust, comes to her. She is concerned about the fate of the empire under the rule of her wayward son. Daniel advises her; the camp of Cyrus before Babylon. A view of the city, with the River Euphrates running through it The Babylonians watch from the city walls and deride Cyrus and his army for making what they believe are impracticable preparations for storming the city. Gobrias, a Babylonian noble who has defected to Cyrus, fears. Gobrias longs for revenge for the death of his son, caused by Belshazzar.
Cyrus assures him he will prevail. Cyrus says that, as he stood on the banks of the Euphrates, he was seized by what seemed a divine inspiration. Cyrus had the idea to drain the river which runs through the city and march into it along the riverbed. A good opportunity to do this will be during the feast of the Babylonian god Sesach, on which, Gobrias confirms, it is a religious duty to the Babylonians to get roaring drunk in the god's honour. Cyrus dedicates himself to the, as yet unknown to him, powerful deity whom he feels is directing his steps, his army comment. Daniel's house. Daniel, with the Prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah open before him. Other Jews Daniel is consulting sacred Jewish texts for guidance, he feels sure that his fellow Jews will soon attain their freedom. Daniel has found a prophesy in the texts that indicates that Cyrus is the anointed of the Lord and will imminently overthrow Babylon and release the Jews from their captivity; the Jews praise God for His mercy The Palace Belsahzzar, with his mother and Jews present, is celebrating the feast of Sesach by uproariously drinking copious amounts of wine.
His mother Nitocris rebukes him for his riotous excess. Belshazzar responds that getting drunk on the feast of Sesach is the custom, in fact a duty, noticing the Jews around him, orders the sacred vessels from the temple of Jerusalem that were brought as tribute to Babylon to be brought to him so he can continue to drink from them, his mother is horrified by such sacrilege and the Jews beg the King not to perform such a profanation. Nitrocis implores her beloved son not to thus incur God's wrath, but Belshazzar scornfully rejects what he considers his mother's superstition The Jews comment that the Lord is slow to anger but his wrath will be awoken. Without the city, the river empty The Persians are elated that Cyrus' scheme has succeeded and the Euphrates has been diverted. Cyrus assures his army that now is the perfect time to attack as their enemies will all be off their guard due to being intoxicated or in a drunken stupor after the feast of Sesach; the army is eager to follow him into battle.
A banquet-room, adorned with the images of the Babylonian gods. Belshazzar, his wives and lords, drinking out of the Jewish temple-vessels, singing the praises of their gods The Babylonians are having a wonderful time on their holiday getting drunk in honour of their gods (Chorus of Babylonians:Ye tutelar gods of ou
Orlando is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel written for the King's Theatre in London in 1733. The Italian-language libretto was adapted from Carlo Sigismondo Capece's L'Orlando after Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the source of Handel's operas Alcina and Ariodante. More an artistic than a popular success at its first performances, Orlando is today recognised as a masterpiece; the opera was first given at the King's Theatre in London on 27 January 1733. There were 10 further performances and it was not revived; the first production since Handel's lifetime was given at Halle, Handel's birthplace, in 1922. A production staged by the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, England, in 1966, conducted by Anthony Lewis, with Janet Baker in the title role, brought the opera back to London for the first time in over two centuries with performances the same year at Sadler's Wells Theatre; the United States premiere of the opera was presented by the Handel Society of New York in a concert version on 18 January 1971 at Carnegie Hall with Rosalind Elias in the title role.
The HSNY had made the first recording of the opera in 1970 in Vienna with a different cast for RCA Red Seal Records. Peter Sellars directed the first staged production of the work in the United States at the American Repertory Theater on 19 December 1981. Countertenor Jeffrey Gall sang Craig Smith conducted; as with all Baroque opera seria, Orlando went unperformed for many years, but with the revival since the 1960s of interest in Baroque music and historic performance practices, it has, along with most Handel operas, received numerous stagings both at festivals and in opera houses. Orlando was performed in London in abridged form in 1963 with Janet Baker in the title role. Among other performances, the opera was staged in Venice in 1985, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Brooklyn in 1994/5, Perth in 2000, at the Royal Opera House in London in 2003 and 2007, at Glimmerglass in 2003, in New York in 2005 and 2011, Zurich in 2006 and 2007, Tourcoing and Göttingen in 2008, Brussels in 2012, Bruges in 2013, Amsterdam in 2014.
The role of Orlando written for Senesino, the great alto castrato, is nowadays performed by a countertenor or a mezzo-soprano. The role of Medoro was written for a female alto, this voice is retained in modern performances; the characters of Dorinda and Angelica are performed by sopranos, Zoroastro by a bass. Orlando, a great soldier in Charlemagne's army, falls in love with the pagan princess Angelica, in turn in love with another man, Medoro. Orlando cannot accept this and he is driven to madness, prevented from causing absolute carnage only by the magician Zoroastro. On the summit of a mountain, at night - The wizard Zoroastro scans the heavens and sees signs in the stars that the warrior Orlando will once more turn to deeds of valour and recover from his passion for the princess of Cathay, Angelica. Orlando himself appears, torn between duty. With a wave of his wand, the magician conjures up disturbing visions of the great heroes of antiquity asleep at Cupid's feet. Zoroastro urges Orlando to forget Venus, the goddess of love, once more follow Mars, god of war..
Orlando is at first shamed by Zoroastro's words but decides love and duty do not conflict, reflecting that Hercules was not robbed of his status as a hero by his affair with Queen Omphale, or Achilles by disguising himself for a time as a woman. In a grove with shepherds' huts - The shepherdess Dorinda reflects on the beauties of nature, which however do not fill her with tranquility as they used to, which she feels may be a sign that she is falling in love. Orlando rushes across the scene with a princess, that he has just rescued from danger, Dorinda thinks he may be in love too.. Dorinda has been sheltering princess Angelica in her hut, as Angelica had found the wounded Moorish warrior Medoro near death and fallen in love with him and brought him to recuperate in the shepherdess's hut with her. Dorinda is upset that Medoro and Angelica are in love, as she has fallen in love with Medoro herself, but Medoro tells Dorinda that Angelica is a relative of his and assures Dorinda that he will never forget her kindness to him.
Dorinda finds him utterly charming anyway. Zoroastro tells Angelica he knows that she is in love with Medoro and warns her that Orlando's jealousy when he discovers this will lead to unpredictable and dangerous results; when Angelica meets Orlando, she pretends to be jealous of his rescue of Princess Isabella, telling him he cannot expect her to love a man who may not be faithful to her. Orlando protests that he could never love anyone but her, offers to do anything to prove it, including fighting fierce monsters; as Orlando leaves, Medoro asks Angelica who she was with. She explains that Orlando is a mighty warrior and besotted with her and advises that they should retreat to her kingdom in the east to escape his wrath. Dorinda is upset to see them embrace. Angelica presents Dorinda with a jewelled bracelet in gratitude for her hospitality. In a forest - Dorinda, inconsolable over the loss of Medoro, listens to the melancholy song of the nightingale and finds it chimes with her mood (Arioso