Akos Hargitay, Pavel Strasil, Amadeus Berauer,
Magali Lesueur, Audrey Aubert, Liza Alpizar Aguilar,
A coproduction with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Handel’s thirty-third opera, Ariodante, was written in the midst of the financial and artistic chaos that reigned during the “London opera war”. In the face of intense competition from the King’s Theatre Handel wrote one of his best operas for Covent Garden. The subject is taken from Ludovico Ariosto’s epos Orlando furioso.
The intrigue surrounding the knight Ariodante had inspired numerous composers and writers before Handel, including Shakespeare, who used the tale, albeit in humorous vein, for his comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
Ginevra and Ariodante are in love with each other. But Polinesso wants to attain power by marrying Ginevra. He schemes against the lovers and forces Ginevra’s confidante Dalinda to dress in Ginevra’s clothes and receive him at night. Believing that Ginevra has been unfaithful to him, Ariodante is driven close to suicide. Indeed, he is believed already dead when he foils an attempt to murder Dalinda that was instigated by Polinesso. Dalinda tells Ariodante about Polinesso’s plotting. In the meantime, Lurcanio challenges Polinesso to a duel to avenge the supposed death of his brother, Ariodante. Polinesso is mortally wounded, and as he lies dying confesses his disgraceful deed. Ariodante appears incognito to proclaim Ginevra’s innocence. Nothing now stands in the way of the wedding of Ginevra and Ariodante.
Handel spent two and a half months working on Ariodante, an unusually long time for him. Both the music and the sensitive portrayal of the various characters are among the most expressive he ever wrote. Furthermore, Handel exploited the artistic potential of the Royal Theatre Covent Garden that opened in 1732 to the full, incorporating choruses and dance as central elements of the plot as well as arias da capo, ariosi and four duets.