Ariodante at Drottningholm – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Georg Friedrich Handel| Lyrics: S Salvi|
First performance: London, Covent Garden 8 januari 1735. Swedish première: Drottningholmsteatern 18 augusti 1964. Seen the performance: 11.06.2009 Drottningholms Slottsteater
What happens in Ariodante
The Scottish princess, Ginevra, is very keen to dance attendance on thehero, Ariodante, a crusader knight. Her lady-in-waiting, Dalinda, is however doubtful. Duke Polinesso, who has courted Ginevra in vain for a long time, harrasses her once more. Ginevra turns him away sharply and contemptuously. Dalinda advises Polinesso to give up his hopes of Ginevra and instead turn his attentions to a more favourably disposed voman – namely, herself. Polinesso realises that there is no straightforward solution. He therefore turns to cunning and evil deeds in order to gain what he desires – the royal throne of Scotland! Ariodante and his brother Lurcanio are ready to depart on a crusade.Before they board the waiting ship, Ariodante takes farewell of this lovely region where he would like most of all to remain, far from the horrors of war. Ginevra surprises him, wishing to have the growing love between them confirmed. She urges Ariodante to give her his hand and promise to be eternally faithful. And this is what happens, but in the midst of their act of love they are surprised by the King, who is out hunting with his men and his favourite, Odoardo. The King welcomes the relationship between them and promises his daughter and his crown to Ariodante. Ginevra is ecstatically jubilant and the king appears relieved at not having to reign any longer. He ponders on the change of fortune in his life. Ariodante’s fate has hastily taken a new turn. Now it is no longer a matter of battle,noise and heroic deeds. Suddenly he is able to marry a beautiful woman and ascend the Scottish throne. He is greatly relieved and joyful. Polinesso sets his treacherous plan in motion. He dances attendance )n Dalinda, persuading her to disguise herself as Ginevra and let him into the royal castle e that night. He says the disguise will help to stir his desire for Dalinda. She is proud and flattered at being given the attentions of a duke and submits. Lurcanio, Ariodante’s brother, also wants to win a wife. He turns his attentions to Dalinda and attempts with tokens of love and clumsy embraces to get her to agree. She rejects him, however, since her heart belongs to to Duke Polinesso. Now it is midnight. At the royal castlee Polinesso awaits the sleepless Ariodante, who saunters around musing. Polinesso entices Ariodante to te11 of his and Ginevra’s love, but then maintains that he himself has been invited to make love to Ginevra that same night. Ariodante is forced to look on as someone he believes is Ginevra lets Polinesso into her bedchamber. Lurcanio, who has followed the whole spectacle at a distance, hurries to the spot. He encourages his brother to seek revenge and justice. He grabs at Ariodante’s sword, anxious that he will take his own life. Ariodante is broken hearted. He has lost everything. She who swore love and faith has deceived him. He has lost his brother’s respect. He sees no meaning in continuing to live. Polinesso perceives that he has hit his mark. Now he wishes to be rid of Dalinda as quickly as possible. But she, who has yielded to him, pleads insistently that he should be faithful.Polinesso is triumphant. He now prepares to take the life of the one and only witness to his conspiracy – Dalinda.
The King is on his way to confirm his abdication when Odoardo comes in with the message that Ariodante has been seen to commit suicide by throwing himself into the sea. The King is overwhelmed by sorrow and guilt. Ginevra feels inexplicable anxiety in the face of her coming wedding. The King tries cautiously to give her the news of Ariodante’s death,but Ginevra faints and has to be looked after. Lurcanio steps into the presnce of the King, who expresses his condolences. But Lurcanio will not allow himself to be consoled. He demands revenge on the person he thinks has caused Ariodante’s death through her shamelessness and unfaithfulness – namely Ginevra. The King is forced to follow the law according to which a woman accused of unfaithfulness is guilty until such time as some man comes to her defence in a single combat. The King cannot have a daughter who is a harlot and he abandons Ginevra.She understands nothing of what is happening. Dalinda guesses that the accusation perhaps has to do with her nocturnal adventure and attempts to give comfort before Ginevra is taken down to the dungeons. Ariodante has been sensible and given up his attempt to commit sulcie. Just as he takes himself up out of the water, Dalinda rushes past pursued by a man with a knife held high. Ariodante succeeds in frightening the pursuer in his flight. When Dalinda has recovered from her astonishment at seeing Ariodante alive, she reveals the conspiracy in which she has been involved. Ariodante realises that Ginevra is innocent of the accusation made and goes off to rescue her. Dalinda swears to be revenged on the false Polinesso, who has even tried to murder her. Polinesso has hastened to the King. He offers to defend Ginevra’s honour in single combat with Lurcanio in the the hope of winning the contest, obtaining Ginevra as his wife, and thereby becoming heir to the throne. The King allows Ginevra a last farewell and shes brought up from her prison. The King lays down, despite her protests that Polinesso is to defend Ginevra. The honour of the family, the throne, and the kingdom goes before everything. Father and daughter separate, tormented by conflicting emotions. The men prepare for the contest between Lurcanio and Polinesso,here Ginevra’s guilt or innocence will be decided. But things take an unexpected turn, and Polinesso is mortally wounded by Lurcanio. The king names himself as Ginevra’s new defender and is just about to start the contest against Lurcanio when a strange masked knight announces himself in his stead. Lurcanio attacks the challenger, but at this point the unknown knight raises his visor. There stands Ariodante, whose supposed death has caused the whole dispute. With Dalinda’s help Ariodante reveals the devilish conspiracy staged by Polinesso. Before he dies Polinesso confesses to his falseness. Ariodante is happy that the darkness of suspicion has now been cleared up. Lurcanio approaches Dalinda once more. She is bitter over the fact that she has been deceived and exploited, but Lurcanio is prepared to overlook everything and Dalinda thanks him for his offer. Ginevra awaits death. Her last hope is that her honour and renown will not go to the grave with her. She is surprised when the King storms in closely followed by Ariodante, Lurcanio and Dalinda, who all confess their part in Ginevra’s misfortune and ask her forgiveness. Ginevra and Ariodante promise one another love and faithfulness a thousand times over. The new era opens with a dance.