Ariodante
  • George Frideric Handel. Opera in three acts. 1734.
  • Libretto adapted from a work by Antonio Salvi, after an episode in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (Orlando in Madness).
  • First performance at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London, on 8th January 1734.
CHARACTERS
Ariodante, a prince male mezzo-soprano
King of Scotland bass
Ginevra, his daughter soprano
Lurcanio, Ariodante’s brother tenor
Polinesso, Duke of Albany male alto
Dalinda, a lady of the court soprano
Odoardo, a courtier chorus

The opera is set in Edinburgh, where Ginevra, object of Polinesso’s unwelcome attentions, is willingly to be betrothed to Ariodante. Polinesso, meeting Ariodante, claims to be loved by Ginevra; in proof he lets the latter see him enter Ginevra’s room, admitted by Dalinda, who loves him. Lurcanio, Ariodante’s brother, who has overheard the encounter, urges revenge, but Ariodante instead attempts to kill himself. Lurcanio explains what he knows to the King, who disowns Ginevra. Ariodante, who has survived, is told by Dalinda what has really happened. In a tournament, Polinesso is killed by Lurcanio and Ariodante appears, saving Ginevra from the death to which she has been condemned and, with Dalinda, putting matters right.

Ariodante opened Handel’s first season at Covent Garden and won some success in the war against the rival Opera of the Nobility, supported by the Prince of Wales. Handel had the tacit and financial support of the King and Queen and, more vocally, of the Princess Royal, whom the Prince of Wales was particularly anxious to spite.