Music with Ease > Opera Before 1800 > Armide - Gluck
An Opera by C W Gluck
Opera in five acts by Gluck; words by François Quinault, founded on Tassos Jerusalem Delivered.
Produced, Paris 1777, at the Académie de Musique; New York, Metropolitan Opera House, November 14, 1910, with Fremstad, Caruso, Homer, Gluck, and Amato.
ARMIDE, a sorceress, niece of Hidraot
PHENICE, an attendant of Armide
SIDONIE, an attendant of Armide
HATE, a Fury
LUCINDE, an apparition
MELISSE, an apparition
RENAUD (RINALDO), a Knight of the Crusade
under Godfrey of Bouillon
ARTEMIDORE, captive Knight delivered by RENAUD..Tenor
THE DANISH KNIGHT, a Crusader
UBALDE, a Crusader
HIDRAOT, King of Damascus
ARONTES, leader of the Saracens
A Naiad, a Love
Populace, Apparitions and Furies.
Time: First Crusade, 1098.
Act I. Hall of Armides palace at Damascus. Phenice and Sidonie are praising the beauty of Armide. But she is depressed at her failure to vanquish the intrepid knight, Renaud, although all others have been vanquished by her. Hidraot, entering, expresses a desire to see Armide married. The princess tells him that, should she ever yield to love, only a hero shall inspire it. People of Damascus enter to celebrate the victory won by Armides sorcery over the knights of Godfrey. In the midst of the festivities Arontes, who has had charge of the captive knights, appears and announces their rescue by a single warrior, none other than Renaud, upon whom Armide now vows vengeance.
Act II. A desert spot. Artemodire, one of the Christian knights, thanks Renaud for his rescue. Renaud has been banished from Godfreys camp for the misdeed of another, whom he will not betray. Artemidore warns him to beware the blandishments of Armide, then departs. Renaud falls asleep by the bank of a stream. Hidraot and Armide come upon the scene. He urges her to employ her supernatural powers to aid in the pursuit of Renaud. After the king has departed, she discovers Renaud. At her behest apparitions, in the disguise of charming nymphs, shepherds and shepherdesses, bind him with garlands of flowers. Armide now approaches to slay her sleeping enemy with a dagger, but, in the act of striking him, she is overcome with love for him, and bids the apparitions transport her and her hero to some "farthest desert, where she may hide her weakness and her shame."
Act III. Wild and rugged landscape. Armide, alone, is deploring the conquest of her heart by Renaud. Phenice and Sidonie come to her and urge her to abandon herself to love. They assure her that Renaud cannot fail to be enchanted by her beauty. Armide, reluctant to yield, summons Hate, who is ready to do her bidding and expel love from her bosom. But at the critical moment Armide cries out to desist, and Hate retires with the threat never to return.
Act IV. From yawning chasms and caves wild beasts and monsters emerge in order to frighten Ubalde and a Danish Knight, who have come in quest of Renaud Ubalde carries a magic shield and sceptre, to counteract the enchantments of Armide, and to deliver Renaud. The knights attack and vanquish the monsters. The desert changes into a beautiful garden. An apparition, disguised as Lucinde, a girl beloved by the Danish Knight, is here. Accompanied by apparitions in various pleasing disguises. Lucinde tries to detain the knight from continuing upon his errand, but upon Ubalde touching her with the golden scepter, she vanishes. The two then resume their journey to the rescue of Renaud.
Act V. Another part of the enchanted garden. Renaud bedecked with garlands, endeavours to detain Armide, who, haunted by dark presentiment, wishes to consult with the powers of Hades. She leaves Renaud to be entertained by a company of happy Lovers. They, however, fail to divert the lovelorn warrior, and are dismissed by him. Ubalde and the Danish Knight appear. By holding the magic shield before Renauds eyes, they counteract the passion that has swayed him. He is following the two knights, when Armide returns and vainly tries to detain him. Proof against her blandishments, he leaves her to seek glory. Armide deserted, summons Hate to slay him. But Hate, once driven away, refuses to return. Armide then bids the Furies destroy the enchanted palace. They obey. She perishes in the ruins. (Or, according to the libretto, "departs in a flying car" -- an early instance of aviation in opera!)
There are more than fifty operas on the subjects of Armide. Glucks has survived them all. Nearly a century before his opera was produced at the Académie, Paris, that institution was the scene of the first performance of "Armide et Renaud," composed by Lully to the same libretto used by Gluck, Quinault having been Lullys librettist in ordinary.
"Armide" is not a work of such strong human appeal as "Orpheus"; but for its day it was a highly dramatic production; and it still admits of elaborate spectacle. The air for Renaud in the second act, "Plus jobserve ces lieux, et plus je les admire!" (The more I view this spot, the more charmed I am); the shepherds song almost immediately following; Armides air at the opening of the third act, "Ah! Si la liberté me doit être ravie" (Ah! if liberty is lost to me); the exquisite solo and chorus in the enchanted garden, "Les plaisirs ont choisi pour asile" (Pleasure has chosen for its retreat) are classics. Several of the ballet numbers long were popular.
In assigning to a singer of unusual merit the ungrateful role of the Danish Knight, Gluck said: "A single stanza will compensate you, I hope, for so courteously consenting to take the part." It was the stanza, "Notre général vous rappelle" (Our commander summons you), with which the knight in Act V recalls Renaud to his duty. "Never," says the relater of the anecdote, "was a prediction more completely fulfilled. The stanza in question produced a sensation."