Opera Scotland

Ariodante

Music
George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759)

Text
Anonymous, after Ginevra, principessa di Scozia (1708) by Antonio Salvi, set by Perti.

Source
Cantos IV-VI of epic poem Orlando furioso (1516) by Lodovico Ariosto (1474-1535).

Premières
First performance: London (Covent Garden), 8 January 1735.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 11 September 1982.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Like Alcina, this work was composed to include extensive dance sequences for the ballet troupe directed by Marie Sallé, though this story concerns only humans, with no element of magic. In addition, it was performed at the new Covent Garden theatre, where Handel was working after a dispute erupted with the proprietors of His Majesty’s in the Haymarket. It is one of Handel’s most concisely plotted operas and contains a number of his greatest arias. The story will be familiar to anyone who knows the basic plot of Much Ado About Nothing, since the epic poem by Ariosto was Shakespeare's source. A false accusation is made by Polinesso (Shakespeare's Don John) against Ginevra (Hero), daughter of the King (Leonato), out of envy for Ariodante (Claudio). The largely comic sub-plot involving the courtship of Beatrice and Benedick is a wonderful invention of Shakespeare and has no parallel in Ariosto (or Handel). Also the English genius relocated his play from medieval Edinburgh to the more obviously hot-blooded location of Sicily.

Characters
The King of Scotland (bass)
Ginevra, his daughter, betrothed to Ariodante (soprano)
Dalinda, Ginevra’s lady-in-waiting (soprano)
Polinesso, Duke of Albany (alto)
Ariodante, a prince in the King’s service (soprano)
Odoardo, a courtier (tenor)
Lurcanio, Ariodante’s younger brother (tenor)

Plot Summary
Ginevra loves Ariodante and rejects the approaches of Polinesso. Dalinda is infatuated with Polinesso, who takes advantage of the situation. His ultimate aim is the throne, but he sees his route to destroying the king through discrediting his daughter. The marriage between Ginevra and Ariodante will happen next day, with the king's full approval, as he intends to make Ariodante heir to the throne. Polinesso persuades Dalinda to impersonate Ginevra in a little pantomime he has planned. Dalinda rejects Lurcanio, who loves her. That night, Polinesso offers Ariodante evidence of Ginevra’s unfaithfulness, and proves it by apparently entering her room and making love to her, while Ariodante observes from below. Ariodante resolves on suicide, but is persuaded by Lurcanio, who was also a witness, to opt for revenge.

As the wedding party assembles, news comes that Ariodante has been drowned. Lurcanio reports his accusation and offers to fight anyone who defends Ginevra. Ariodante now saves Dalinda from Polinesso’s gang who were trying to kill her. Acknowledging she has been duped, she now explains to Ariodante the nature of the plot. At court, Polinesso stands as Ginevra’s champion. Lurcanio mortally wounds him, so Ginevra’s guilt seems assured. Ariodante comes in disguise to champion her. A combat with his brother is averted, as news comes that on his deathbed Polinesso confessed his deceit. Dalinda is pardoned, and paired off with Lurcanio. Ariodante is united with Ginevra.

The Cast

Ariodante
 a prince, in the King's service
Dalinda
 Ginevra's lady-in-waiting
Dancer 1
 
Dancer 2
 
Ginevra
 a princess, engaged to Ariodante
Lurcanio
 Ariodante's younger brother
Odoardo
 a courtier
Polinesso
 Duke of Albany
Re di Scozia
 King of Scotland, Ginevra's father

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