Armida, Hob. XXVIII/12, is an opera in three acts by Joseph Haydn, set to a libretto based upon Torquato Tasso's poem Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). The first performance was 26 February 1784 and it went on to receive 54 performances from 1784 to 1788 at the Esterháza Court Theatre. During the composer's lifetime it was also performed in Pressburg, Budapest, Turin and Vienna. Haydn himself regarded Armida as his finest opera. Armida then disappeared from the general operatic repertoire, and in the 20th century was revived in 1968 in a concert rendition in Cologne, and later a production in Bern. The United States premiere of the opera was givem at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, New Hampshire with the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra for the Monadnock Music Festival in September 1981. The production starred soprano Sarah Reese in the title role and was staged during the Vietnam War by director Peter Sellars.
Karl Geiringer has commented on how Haydn adopted the "principles and methods" of Christoph Willibald Gluck in this opera, and how the opera's overture alone encapsulates the opera's plot in purely instrumental terms. Haydn's opera contains occasional echoes of Sarti's Giulio Sabino, played at Esterháza in 1783.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 26 February 1784
(Conductor: Joseph Haydn)
|Armida, a sorceress||soprano||Metilda Bologna|
|Rinaldo, a knight||tenor||Prospero Breghetti|
|Zelmira, accomplice of Armida||soprano||Costanza Valdesturla|
|Idreno, king of the Saracens||baritone||Paolo Mandini|
|Ubaldo, friend of Rinaldo||tenor||Antonio Specioli|
|Clotarco, a knight||tenor||Leopoldo Dichtler|
The work is scored for flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns/trumpets, timpani, strings, continuo.
To prevent the capture of Jerusalem by the knights of the First Crusade, The Prince of Darkness has sent the enchantress Armida into the world to seduce the Christian heroes and turn them from their duty. The bravest of these, Rinaldo, has fallen under Armida's spell. She comes to love him so deeply that she cannot bring herself to destroy him.
- Act 1
Scene 1: A council chamber in the royal palace of Damascus. King Idreno is alarmed that the Crusaders have crossed the Jordan River. The heathen sorceress Armida seems to have triumphed over the Crusaders, but fears that her conquest is not complete without gaining the love of the Christian knight Rinaldo. Now Rinaldo is obsessed with Armida and promises to fight against his fellow Christians, if victorious King Idreno offers him the kingdom and Armida’s hand. Armida prays for Rinaldo’s safety.
Scene 2: A steep mountain, with Armida's fortress at the top. The knights Ubaldo and Clotarco plan to free Rinaldo from Armida’s clutches. Idreno sends Zelmira, the daughter of the sultan of Egypt, to ensnare the Christians but on encountering Clotarco she falls in love with him and offers to lead him to safety.
Scene 3: Armida's apartments. Rinaldo admires the bravery of the approaching knights. Ubaldo warns Rinaldo to beware Armida's charms, and reproaches the dereliction of his duty as a Christian. Although remorseful, Rinaldo is unable to escape Armida's enchantment.
- Act 2
Scene 1: A garden in Armida's palace. Zelmira fails to dissuade Idreno from planning an ambush of the Crusaders. Idreno pretends to agree to Clotarco's demand that the Christian knights enchanted by Armida be freed. Reluctantly, Rinaldo leaves with Ubaldo. Armida expresses her fury.
Scene 2: The Crusader camp. Ubaldo welcomes Rinaldo, who prepares to go into battle. Armida begs for refuge and Rinaldo’s love. Rinaldo departs for battle with Ubaldo and the other soldiers.
- Act 3
Scene 1: A dark, forbidding grove, with a large myrtle tree. Rinaldo, knowing that the tree holds the secret of Armida’s powers, enters the wood intending to cut it down. Zelmira appears with a group of nymphs, and they try to get him to return to Armida. As he is about to strike the myrtle, Armida, dishevelled, appears from it and confronts him. Armida cannot bring herself to kill him; Rinaldo strikes the tree and the magic wood vanishes.
Scene 2: The Crusader camp. The Crusaders prepare for battle against the Saracens. Armida appears, swearing to pursue Rinaldo everywhere. As Rinaldo moves off, she sends an infernal chariot after Rinaldo.
- Philips 6769 021: Jessye Norman, Claes-Håkan Ahnsjö, Norma Burrowes, Samuel Ramey, Robin Leggate, Anthony Rolfe Johnson; Lausanne Chamber Orchestra; Antal Doráti, conductor
- Teldec 81108-2: Cecilia Bartoli, Christoph Prégardien, Patricia Petibon, Oliver Widmer, Scot Weir, Markus Schäfer; Concentus Musicus Wien; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
- Lang, Paul Henry, "Haydn and the Opera" (April 1932). The Musical Quarterly, 18 (2): pp. 274–281.
- Graeme, Roland (2002). "Armida. Joseph Haydn". The Opera Quarterly 18 (1): 110–114. doi:10.1093/oq/18.1.110. Retrieved 27 September 2007.
- Peter G. Davis (September 6, 1981). "Opera: Haydn Moved To Vietnam". The New York Times.
- Geiringer, Karl, "Haydn as an Opera Composer" (1939–1940). Proceedings of the Musical Association, 66th Sess.: pp. 23–32.
- Rice JA. Armida. In: Haydn (Oxford Composer Companions), Ed Wyn Jones D. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002.