Dramma per musica in drei Akten (1771)
Musik von Antonio Salieri
Libretto von Marco Coltellini
Concert performance in Italian
Friday, 19 February 2021, 7 pm
Armida, the beautiful niece of the ruler of Damascus, captured the imagination of 18th-century composers like no other sorceress. In Torquato Tasso’s epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata Armida has the task of preventing the crusaders from taking Jerusalem on behalf of her uncle by using all the magical and feminine arts at her disposal. In Handel’s Rinaldo she is the main female character, just as she is in Vivaldi’s Armida al campo d’Egitto. Jean-Baptiste Lully and Christoph Willibald Gluck placed the sorceress on the opera stages of Paris, Luigi Cherubini and Gioachino Rossini made her an Italian figure, and Antonin Dvořak wrote his last opera Armida in Czech for the National Theatre in Prague in 1904. In 1771 a young Italian composer chose the subject matter for his first large-scale opera, which he wrote for the Burgtheater at the age of twenty. Antonio Salieri from the Republic of Venice subsequently enjoyed a rapid rise at court in Vienna and became one of the central figures of his age in Viennese music, although historically he was destined always to be overshadowed by Mozart. Salieri’s librettist Marco Coltellini reduced the plot to three main protagonists. Armida is holding Rinaldo captive on an island, but has fallen in love with the knight. Rinaldo’s companion Ubaldo lands on the island to free first the enchanted knight and then, with him at his side, Jerusalem. Salieri aimed for an “opera of magic, heroism and love that is also touched by tragedy” and created a through-composed work that no longer rigidly adheres to the strict rules of opera seria, but espouses the ideas of reformed opera. This is already evident from the overture which is not an introductory sinfonia, but portrays Uberto’s arrival on the island. Salieri eschewed the alternation between recitative and aria in favour of more complex and dramatic scenes. The premiere was a great success for Salieri, Armida was soon given all over Europe and the opera became the first of his works to be printed in its entirety. Armida meant so much to Salieri that he continually revised the opera to mitigate the “inexcusable immaturity” of his youth.