‘Armide’ must be one of the most famous operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully. It is considered to be a true masterpiece recognized by the musicians of future generations. The period when J.-B. Lully was making it was very tense for him. His indecent behaviour followed with the disgrace which ended his privileged position at the Court. (Louis XIV was very strict to his Subjects in everything regarded morals & reputation). At the same time this personal crisis allowed him to create a very profound tragedy in music, blending personal anxiety with art.
The premiere cast of the opera took place in Paris during Carnival on the 15th of February, 1686. The ‘Mercure Galant’ mentions ‘Armide’ not once. The performance had a great success, so it was re-staged numerous times during the year & afterwards. The almanach writes that the King also watched it privately later without J.-B. Lully’s presence.
The plot brings us back to the immortal masterpiece by Ludovico Ariosto ‘Orlando Furioso/ The Raging Roland’, (one of Louis XIV’s favourite literary works). It has much in common with the abstract describing Ruggeiro’s staying at Alcina’s castle. In Lully’s opera the knight is called Renaud, while the sorceress he meets is Armide, who is the enemy of his. She casts a love spell upon him & is going to kill, but finds out that she has been fallen in love. The feeling & the fact that the knight’s love is fake torments Armide, so she calls to the Goddess of Hate to restore everything as it was. But the anti-speel doesn’t work. The Goddess condemns Armide to eternal love. Meanwhile two soldiers, Renaud’s companions, find their friend & break the spell. The knight escapes from Armide, who is left sad, furious & hopeless.
I offer your attention, Esteemed Readers, a famous Passacaille, however the whole opera is worth watching & re-watching many times.
Vive le Roy! 🙂
PS. Painting by Nicolas Poussin