Il pastor fido (Handel)

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Il pastor fido (HWV 8) is an opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel. It was set to a libretto by Giacomo Rossi based on the famed and widely familiar pastoral poem of the same name by Giovanni Battista Guarini.

Performance history[edit]

It was composed in 1712 and first performed on 22 November of the same year under the composer. The opera opened to a largely hostile reception, probably due to disappointment after the success of Rinaldo: one diarist noted critically that "the scene represented only the Country of Arcadia; the Habits [costumes] were old – the Opera short". The roles of Mirtillo and Silvio were originally sung by the castratos Valeriano Pellegrini and Valentino Urbani. The overture is in six movements and is long for its time: it is thought that it may have been originally composed as an unrelated orchestral suite.

The revival of the spring of 1734, in which Giovanni Carestini took the role of Mirtillo, was far more successful, but Handel significantly altered the music: only seven of the original arias remained, and those cut were replaced by arias from Handel's cantatas or earlier operas. This production proved popular and enjoyed a run of 13 performances. In the winter of 1734 Il pastor fido was revived again: Carestini remained as Mirtillo and the English tenor John Beard took the role of Silvio. A newly composed prologue, Terpsicore, was added to the opera for this run of performances. The prologue consisted of solo arias, choral movements, and orchestral writing for dance: the danced role of Terpsichore was performed by Marie Sallé, whose dance company had been engaged by Covent Garden manager John Rich.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 22 November 1712
(Conductor: - )
Amarilli soprano Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti
Dorinda contralto Jane Barbier
Eurilla soprano Francesca Margherita de L'Epine
Mirtillo soprano castrato Valeriano Pellegrini
Silvio alto castrato Valentino Urbani ("Valentini")
Tirenio bass Richard Leveridge


  • Amadeus Almanac
  • Dean, Winton; Knapp, J. Merrill (1987), Handel's Operas, 1704-1726, Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 0193152193  The first of the two volume definitive reference on the operas of Handel
  • Hicks, Anthony "Il pastor fido", Grove Music Online ed L. Macy (Accessed 16 January 2007),, subscription access.