Cavalli – L’Ormindo (3)

October 29, 2009

For copyright reasons, the Naxos anthology of arias and recits is unavailable in this country, but Sergio Vartolo provides worthwhile information on the Naxos Direct website, as follows:

* Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice.  Enquiring minds need to know!
Favola Regia per musica, by Giovanni Faustini, first performed at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 1644.

Harmony, who performs the Prologue / Ormindo, Hariadano’s long-lost son / Amida, prince of Tremisene / Nerillo, Amida’s page / (In disguise) Sicle, princess of Susio [Scotland]; Melide, her lady-inwaiting; Erice, her nurse / Erisbe, wife of Hariadeno / Mirinda, her confidante / Hariadeno, king of Morocco and Fez / Destiny / Cupid / Fortune / The Winds / Osman, Hariadeno’s captain / Guard of the arsenal at Ansa / Messenger / Chorus of Ormindo’s soldiers / Chorus of Amida’s soldiers / Chorus of Mauritanian soldiers / Chorus of Erisbe’s ladies-in-waiting

In Act One we meet Ormindo, a Mauritanian warrior in love with Erisbe, and his fellow soldier Amida, who also loves her. Erisbe is still young, but is married to the elderly Hariadeno, king of Morocco. The two men agree to present themselves in turn to Erisbe and leave her to make her choice. She is delighted by their declarations but unable to choose between them. The two suitors take their leave of Erisbe. The page Nerillo laments the fact that love makes fools of men. Enter Sicle, dressed in gipsy clothes, in search of her lover, Amida, and accompanied by her nurse, Erice. They offer to read Nerillo’s palm. Erisbe meanwhile is bemoaning her fate as the wife of an old man who can only offer her ‘insipid kisses’ (‘sciapiti baci’). Her lady-in-waiting Mirinda declares ‘truly it is not right/to join golden tresses to silver locks’ (‘[non] si conviene in vero/congiunger treccia d’oro a crin d’argento’). The act closes with Destiny’s order to Cupid to reunite Amida and Sicle.
Act Two opens with a love scene between Amida and Erisbe. Still disguised, Sicle, Erice and Melide appear and offer to tell their fortunes, before reading first Amida’s and then Erisbe’s palm. Erice convinces Amida to meet her in a cave where she will carry out a magical fortune-telling ceremony. Meanwhile Ormindo announces that he is leaving, having received a letter from his mother asking for his help to fight the king of Algeria who is besieging Tunis. Erisbe decides to run away with him. Fortune then commands the Winds to turn back the ships of the fleeing lovers.
At the beginning of Act Three, Sicle, Melide and Erice prepare the cave for the magic rites promised to Amida, with the intention of revealing their true identity to him. During the ceremony, Sicle appears before Amida and exhorts him to touch her to see that she is real, and not a spirit. The two are reconciled. In the meantime, Hariadeno has commanded his captain Osman to follow Erisbe and Ormindo. A messenger arrives, bearing the news that they have been captured. In a faltering voice, the king declares that they are to be poisoned. Osman is charged with the task of killing them but Mirinda promises to marry him if he replaces the poison with a sleeping draught. Ormindo and Erisbe drink the potion and feel themselves gradually being overtaken by sleep. Hariadeno then receives a letter which reveals that Ormindo is his long-lost son, and is filled with remorse, until Osman reveals that he only gave them a sleeping potion. The two lovers awake and Ormindo begs his father’s forgiveness [12]. Final duet between Ormindo and Erisbe.

Vartolo draws an analogy between this sort of plot line and tv soaps of our own day. He talks too about moving away from the madrigal, which we link immediately to Monteverdi and Venetian music of the period, but this part-music was on the way out to be replaced by duets and engaging more with the visual of sets and costumes.


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