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The Sunday Opera: Joseph Haydn's "Armida"

Toquato Tasso’s poem “Jerusalem Delivered” has been used as the basis for many classical pieces, most notably the operas “Armida” by Rossini and “Rinaldo” by Handel.  On this week’s Sunday Opera (1/12 3:00 p.m.), we’ll turn to a less familiar treatment in Joseph Haydn’s forgotten operatic version also entitled “Armida.”  In this recording made in 1978, Jessye Norma portrays the sorceress of the title who is sent by “The Dark One” to defeat the Crusaders who are attempting to take Jerusalem back from the Saracens by causing them to fall in love with her before she kills them.  The leader of the knights, Rinaldo (Claes H. Ahnsjo). falls in love with Armida, and, much to her horror, Armida reciprocates culminating in a tragic ending for Rinaldo.  Also included in this cast are Norma Burrowes as Zelmira, Armida’s accomplice, Samuel Ramey as Idreno, the king of the Saracens, and Robin Leggate and Anthony Rolfe Johnson as two other knights, Ublado and Clotarco.  Antal Dorati is the conductor of this performance featuring the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.  

More Haydn is on tap after the opera when Michael Kownacky brings you his Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major and the Cello Conceto No. 1.  We’ll close the afternoon with Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli, his “Mass in Time of War” which is also called the Paukenmesse or “Timpani Mass.”  Often seen as being anti-war, Haydn’s music seems to many to be uplifting and joyous, a search for a hopeful and better future after the conflict.  The soloists in this recording are Nancy Argenta, Catherine Denley, Mark Padmore, and Stephen Varcoe, and they’re singing with the Collegium Musicum 90 Choir and Orchestra under the direction of Richard Hickox.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.