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Orlando paladino Orlando the Paladin

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Franz Joseph Haydn (born Rohrau, 31 March 1732; died Vienna, 31 May 1809)


Nunziato Porta.


Libretto Le pazzie d’ Orlando by Badini (set by Guglielmi, London 1771), derived from Ariosto.



First performance: Eszterháza, 6 December 1782.

First UK performance: Birmingham (Midlands Arts Centre), 11 July 1980.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 25 August 2011 (concert).

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Haydn’s treatment of the Orlando story was the last but one of his Hungarian operas and is set in a lighter vein than Handel’s, particularly with the treatment of the role of Pasquale, an interesting comic servant role, whose music is of high quality. The roles of Angelica and Alcina are of considerable technical difficulty. An unusual departure by comparison with earlier treatments such as Vivaldi and Handel is that Orlando is composed for tenor. His music – the mad scene (surprisingly early in the plot) and a later scene waking from a dream, are both very effectively composed music dramas. However, as with Haydn’s other Eszterháza operas, the libretto is not drawn with sufficient tautness. In spite of that, Haydn’s treatment of the individual characters and situations remains fascinating, never serious for long.


Main Characters

Angelica, Queen of Cathay (soprano)

Eurilla, a shepherdess (soprano)

Alcina, a sorceress (soprano)

Orlando, a knight (tenor)

Medoro, a Saracen warrior (tenor)

Rodomonte, King of Barbary (baritone)

Pasquale, Orlando’s squire (tenor)


Plot Summary

Rodomonte is in a constant state of fury because of the loss of his love, stolen, he thinks, by Orlando. Eurilla finds his condition a source of concern. Angelica and Medoro love one another, and both of them are worried about Orlando whose own love for Angelica has driven him into a jealous rage. Pasquale is regularly starved by his master, so is more interested in foraging for food than in falling for Eurilla. As it becomes inevitable that Orlando in his fury is quite capable of fighting both Rodomonte, who is keen to fight, and Medoro, who is not, the situation is temporarily resolved by Alcina, who casts a spell on Orlando. However it is not long before strife breaks out again between Orlando and Rodomonte. Meanwhile Eurilla, fully aware of Pasquale’s boastfulness and mock-heroics, falls in love with him, in spite of herself. When Orlando once more threatens Medoro and Angelica, Alcina turns him to stone. When the other characters realise what has happened they beg her to relent, but when Orlando is released from that spell his insanity returns, so Alcina now locks him in a cave. The only way to cure him is to make him forget all the previous episodes, and this can only be done by pouring water from the river Lethe over his brow as he sleeps. On waking, his peace of mind is restored and he and Rodomonte are reconciled to such an extent that they fight together to defeat a horde of wild men threatening Medoro and Angelica. All the characters are at last reconciled.

The Cast

 a sorceress
 Queen of Cathay
 Charon, ferryman to the Underworld
 a shepherdess
 a shepherd, Eurilla's father
 a Saracen warrior, Angelica's beloved
 Paladin of Charlemagne
 Orlando's squire
 King of Barbary

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