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Orlando furioso (Vivaldi, 1727)

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Orlando furioso
Opera by Antonio Vivaldi
Title page of the original libretto (1727)
LibrettistGrazio Braccioli
November 1727 (1727-11)

Orlando (RV 728), usually known in modern times as Orlando furioso (Italian pronunciation: [orˈlando fuˈrjoːzo, -so]), is an opera in three acts by Antonio Vivaldi to an Italian libretto by Grazio Braccioli, based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso (The Frenzy of Orlando). The first performance of the opera was at the Teatro San Angelo, Venice, in November 1727. It is to be distinguished from an earlier Vivaldi opera of 1714, Orlando furioso, set to much the same libretto, once thought to be a revival of a 1713 opera by Giovanni Alberto Ristori but now considered by Vivaldian musicologists to be a fully-fledged opera by Vivaldi himself.[1]

The opera – more formally, the dramma per musica – alternates arias with recitative, and is set on an island at an unspecified time. The story line combines several plot lines from Ariosto: the exploits of the hero Orlando are detailed, as well as the tale of the sorceress Alcina.


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type[2] Premiere cast
November 1727[3]
Orlando, a knight jealous of Medoro contralto (en travesti) Lucia Lancetti
Angelica, beloved of Medoro soprano Benedetta Serosina
Alcina, enchantress contralto Anna Girò
Bradamante, female warrior, beloved of Ruggiero contralto Maria Caterina Negri
Medoro, Prince betrothed to Angelica contralto castrato Casimiro Pignotti
Ruggiero, a knight following Orlando contralto castrato Giovanni Andrea Tassi
Astolfo bass Gaetano Pinetti



Act 1


In a delightful garden in which two springs are seen, Medoro escapes from a shipwreck into the arms of his beloved Angelica. Alcina magically helps Medoro and he recounts how he was first captured, then shipwrecked. Orlando is jealous of Medoro, but Angelica lies and says Medoro is her brother.

Alcina is attracted to the knight Ruggiero. She uses her magic to make him forget Bradamante and love her instead. Bradamante discovers Ruggiero's "betrayal." She shows him the ring he gave her therefore breaking Alcina's spell. Ruggiero feels guilty for his actions.

Act 2

18th-century depiction of Angelica and Medoro

In a grove with green secluded spots, Astolfo reflects how he loves Alcina, but is tormented by her unfaithfulness.

Meanwhile, in a mountainous alpine region with a high, precipitous cliff, Angelica and Medoro swear their love and part ways. To rid herself of Orlando, Angelica sends him to fight a monster who guards —she claims— a vase containing an elixir of youth: the potion by which Medea revived the dying Aeson.[4] In fact, she is just trying to lure him into an enchanted cavern from which Alcina's spell makes escape impossible. Orlando enters defying the monster and is trapped. Realizing Angelica's faithlessness, however, he digs his way out despite the spell.

Angelica and Medoro marry in a countryside at the foot of a hill. They carve their vows on a nearby tree. Orlando finds the tree, and on reading the inscription, becomes so furious that he starts destroying the trees.

Act 3


The place is at the entrance hall before the temple of Hecate. Astolfo believes Orlando dead. With Ruggiero and Bradamante, he plots revenge against Alcina. The secret of Alcina's power lies in an urn with Merlin's ashes, which is locked in the temple of Hecate. They await Alcina's return.

Inside the temple of Hecate, Bradamante disguises herself as a man. Alcina falls in love with her. Orlando, still raving mad about the marriage of Angelica and Medoro, fights with the temple statues, inadvertently destroying Alcina's power.

On a deserted island. Alcina tries to attack the sleeping Orlando, but is prevented by Ruggiero and Bradamante. Astolfo returns to arrest Alcina. Orlando regains his reason and forgives Angelica and Medoro.






  1. ^ Reinhard Strohm, The Operas of Antonio Vivaldi, Florence, Olschki, 2008, I, p. 122, ISBN 978-88-222-5682-9. Vivaldi's personal responsibility for the 1714 opera had been established in 1973 by Strohm himself in his Zu Vivaldi's Opernschaffen, later published in Maria Teresa Muraro (ed.), Venezia e il melodramma nel Settecento, Florence Olshki, 1978, pp. 237–248. Federico Maria Sardelli has accordingly assigned the new catalogue number RV 819 to the 1714 opera.
  2. ^ Cross, Eric (2001). "Orlando furioso". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  3. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Orlando furioso, 10 November 1727". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  4. ^ Quotation from the libretto (act 2, scene 5), drawn from the booklet accompanying the Erato 1978 LP, (translation by Edward Houghton).
    Angelica: "Above that cliff which you see//A silver vessel preserves the fateful liquid//By which Medea restored youth//To feeble Esone. I would have it".