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The story of Armida, a Saracen sorceress and Rinaldo, a soldier in the First Crusade, was created by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso. In his epic Gerusalemme liberata, Rinaldo is a fierce and determined warrior who is also honorable and handsome. Armida has been sent to stop the Christians from completing their mission and is about to murder the sleeping soldier, but instead she falls in love. She creates an enchanted garden where she holds him a lovesick prisoner. Eventually two of his fellow Crusaders find him and hold a shield to his face, so he can see his image and remember who he is. Rinaldo barely can resist Armida’s pleadings, but his comrades insist that he return to his Christian duties.
Many painters and composers were inspired by Tasso's tale. The works that resulted often added or subtracted an element; Tasso himself continued to edit the story for years. In some versions, Armida is converted to Christianity, in others, she rages and destroys her own enchanted garden. She occupies a place in the literature of abandoned women such as the tragic Dido, who committed suicide, and the evil Circe, whom Odysseus abandoned to complete his voyage, but she is considered by many to be more human, and thus more compelling and sympathetic, than either of them.
Armida in opera
The story of Armida and Rinaldo has been the basis for several operas:
- Armide (1686) by Jean-Baptiste Lully
- Rinaldo and Armida (1698) by John Dennis
- Rinaldo (1711) by George Frideric Handel
- Armida al campo d'Egitto (1718) by Antonio Vivaldi
- Armida abbandonata (1770) by Niccolò Jommelli
- Armida (1771) by Antonio Salieri
- Armida (1772) by Antonio Sacchini
- Armide (1777) by Christoph Willibald von Gluck
- Armida (1780) by Josef Mysliveček
- Renaud (1783), also by Sacchini
- Armida (1784) by Joseph Haydn
- Armida (1802) by Bianchi
- Armida (1817) by Gioachino Rossini
- Armida (1904) by Antonín Dvořák
- Armida (2005) by Judith Weir
On May 1, 2010, Rossini's Armida was performed and broadcast live to theaters around the world in the series MetLive in HD.
Armida as a ballet
- Armida. Choreography by Jules Perrot. Music by Cesare Pugni. First performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, St. Petersburg on 20 November [O.S. 8 November] 1855.
- Le Pavillon d'Armide. Choreography by Mikhail Fokine. Music by Nikolai Tcherepnin. First performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg on 25 November [O.S. 12 November] 1907. Second premiere given by the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris on 19 May 1909.
- Rinaldo and Armida. Choreography by Frederick Ashton. Music by Malcolm Arnold. First performed by the Sadler's Wells Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 6 January 1955.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Armida.|
Rinaldo and Armida, by Tiepolo
Rinaldo and Armida, by Gerard Hoet
A Rose from Armida's Garden, by Marie Spartali Stillman