Orlando paladino

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Opera dates
Title: Knight Roland
Original title: Orlando paladino
Italian title page of the libretto, Dresden 1792

Italian title page of the libretto, Dresden 1792

Shape: “Dramma eroicomico” in three acts
Original language: Italian
Music: Joseph Haydn
Libretto : Nunziato Porta
Literary source: Carlo Francesco Badini : Le pazzie d'Orlando
Ludovico Ariosto : Orlando furioso
Premiere: December 6, 1782
Place of premiere: Eszterháza Castle
Playing time: about 3 hours
Place and time of the action: An island in the Indian Ocean
  • Angelica, Queen of Cattai / Northern China ( soprano )
  • Rodomonte, King of Barbarism ( Bass )
  • Orlando (Roland), Franconian paladin ( tenor )
  • Medoro, Angelica's lover (tenor)
  • Licone, shepherd, father Eurillas (tenor)
  • Eurilla, shepherdess (soprano)
  • Pasquale, Orlando's squire (tenor)
  • Alcina, sorceress (soprano)
  • Caronte , ferryman of the underworld (bass)
  • Shepherds, shepherdesses, spirits of the underworld, savages, Saracens (extras)

Orlando paladino ( Knight Roland ) is a "Dramma eroicomico", a heroic-comic opera in three acts (14 pictures) by Joseph Haydn , which was premiered on December 6, 1782 in Eszterháza Castle . The libretto is by Nunziato Porta . The plot goes back to an episode from Ludovico Ariostos Orlando furioso (1516). The play was written for a planned but never-ending visit by the Russian Grand Duke Paul and his German wife Maria Fyodorovna , staged in the presence of Emperor Joseph II and soon re-enacted all over Europe. In Hoboken's general directory , it is counted as 11th of 13 operas.


Queen Angelica of Cattai (China) and the Saracen fighter Medoro are in love. The Christian knight Orlando, a nephew of Charlemagne , threatens the two with death because he has gone mad out of jealousy of Medoro. The boastful rumbling barbarian king Rodomonte, bursting with strength, tries to protect them, but only with the magical power of the fairy Alcina and the Lethe ferryman Caronte can Orlando be brought back to reason and the couple saved. As comic characters, the lower couple Eurilla and Pasquale also reflect the action musically.

first act

Open field with a view of an old castle in the distance

Pietro Travaglia: Sketch of the scene for the first picture, 1782

Scene 1. In a snow-covered mountain landscape, the shepherdess Eurilla sits with other shepherdesses doing boring routine work (Eurilla: “Il lavorar l'è pur la brutta cosa”). Her father Licone warns her of a dangerous warrior he has seen nearby. But it's too late to escape. Rodomonte, the king of barbarism , appears with a group of Saracens and threatens to ask for information about whether the Frankish paladin Orlando was seen in the area. This is not the case, but Licone informs Rodomonte that Angelica and Medoro have sought refuge in the castle. Eurilla tells him about the tender love of the two (Eurilla: "Il sol Medoro è l'unico pensier della regina") and then withdraws.

Scene 2. Rodomonte grandly assures Licone that he wants to protect Angelica from the wrath of Orlando (Rodomonte: "Temerario! Senti e trema").

The inside of a tower

Scene 3. Angelica worries about her lover Medoro because of Orlando's reenactments (Angelica: “Palpita ad ogni istante”). With the help of her magic powers and her “Book of Prophecies” she conjures up the mighty sorceress Alcina and asks her for protection. Alcina promises her these. Angelica should only see to it that Medoro doesn't leave her side. Rodomonte will also help her, but he cannot fight the Frankish paladin. Before Alcina disappears, Angelica describes her own power (Alcina: "Ad un guardo, a un cenno solo").

Scene 4. Medoro comes to Angelica, scared. He saw a dangerous-looking warrior nearby, followed by an overtired squire. He in turn confessed to being in the service of Orlando. Angelica tells Medoro about Alcina's promise of protection and tells him to go into hiding. Medoro goes hesitantly (Medoro: "Parto. Ma, oh dio, non posso").

small forest

Scene 5. Orlando's squire Pasquale dons an old armor while singing (Pasquale: “La mia bella m'ha detto di no”). He's hungry because he never gets enough to eat at Orlando. Rodomonte appears and immediately challenges him to a fight, since he thinks he is a knight.

Scene 6. Eurilla, who is looking for Pasquale on behalf of Orlando, arrives. Rodomonte moves away in anticipation of the duel. Meanwhile, Pasquale asks Eurilla for a meal. In return, he promises her a garment from his master. He boasts of his long journeys as a knight (Pasquale: "Ho viaggiato in Franca, in Spagna").

Lovely garden with a fountain

Scene 7. Medoro believes that Angelica will be endangered by his presence and tells her that he will leave the country when it gets dark. But his heart will always stay with her. Angelica doesn't want to lose him (Angelica: “Non partir, mia bella face”). She leaves disappointed. Medoro follows her.

Scene 8. Orlando appears at the fountain in search of Angelica and discovers the carved names of the lovers there. He goes into a frenzy and devastates the garden (Orlando: "D'Angelica il nome!").

small forest

Scene 9. Rodomonte meets the phlegmatic Pasquale in the forest. Since he doesn't get an answer to his question about Orlando, he starts looking again.

Scene 10. Orlando asks Pasquale to come with him to the upcoming fight. But Pasquale excuses himself: He was not born a knight. When Eurilla arrives in search of Medoro, she cannot withhold from Orlando for long that the couple was here. Orlando swears cruel revenge.

Lovely garden, as before

Scene 11. Angelica has bad premonitions. Pasquale and Eurilla warn them of the approaching Orlando. When she is scared to flee, Rodomonte comes towards her.

Scene 12. Rodomonte is still looking for the knight he had previously challenged to battle. Eurilla, Pasquale, Angelica and Medoro, who can hardly stand on their feet for fear, beg for help. Alcina appears to comfort them, and Rodomonte also promises them protection. Eurilla and Pasquale keep an eye out for Orlando and realize he is steadily drawing closer. The lofty Rodomonte is transformed by Alcina.

Scene 13. Orlando storms in with his sword drawn and threatens everyone present one after the other without recognizing any of them. At a sign from Alcina, he is locked in an iron cage - a symbol of his mental illness.

Second act

small forest

Scene 1. Rodomonte tries to challenge Orlando to a duel, but is interrupted by Eurilla, who declares her love for him, while Angelica and Medoro flee. Rodomonte doesn't want to hear about it and sends Eurilla away.

Scene 2. Rodomonte sings of his tried and tested fighting ability (Rodomonte: “Mille lampi d'accese faville”).

Wide land by the sea

Scene 3. Medoro has finally reached a safe place. But now he is afraid of the emptiness of the land and the sea. He also longs for Angelica. Eurilla tries to calm him down. When they see a warrior approaching, Medoro sends Eurilla away. He searches in vain for the right words to tell Angelica about him (Medoro: “Dille, che un infelice”). Then he hides in a cave.

Scene 4. The “knight” approaching on horseback is Pasquale, who boastfully sings about his own fame (Pasquale: “Vittoria, vittoria!”). Eurilla, who is hiding behind a bush, makes fun of him for a while with mocking shouts, until she reveals herself to the now trembling squire. The two get closer and flirt with each other (Eurilla / Pasquale: "Quel tuo visetto amabile"). They make their way to the castle together.

Scene 5. Angelica longs for Medoro (Angelica: “Aure chete, verdi allori”).

Scene 6. Alcina vows to protect Angelica and ensure her happiness. If Angelica should harm herself, she will find herself next to her lover.

Scene 7. Angelica can no longer bear Medoro's absence. She climbs a rock to plunge into the sea. Suddenly Medoro appears next to her.

Scene 8. The couple is happily reunited and celebrates their happiness (Duet Angelica / Medoro: “Qual contento io provo in seno”). The two decide to leave the country together. Her love means more to Angelica than her royal power, which she wants to give up for Medoro.

Scene 9. Orlando discovers them and threatens to kill Medoro. The intervening Alcina allows the couple to escape. She gives Orlando, who is petty-minded towards her, one last chance and leaves it with an admonition not to pursue them any longer.

Scene 10. Orlando feels humiliated. He does not want to be ordered by a woman. Suddenly monsters and furies confront him. Orlando is confused (Orlando: "Cosa vedo! Cosa sento!").

Room in the castle

Scene 11. At their rendezvous in the castle, Pasquale Eurilla presents himself as the French singing master. He boasts of his beauty, which has already led to the death of several women. That is why the judge ordered him to always veil his face. Then he says goodbye with an example of his singing skills (Pasquale: "Ecco spiano. Ecco il mio trillo").

Scene 12a. On his search for Angelica, Rodomonte found his way into Eurilla's room. Alcina also appears there and assures him that the lovers are safe. Everyone should come to their magic grotto, where they will learn more.

Scene 12b. Since Eurilla is afraid of the way into the cave, she asks Rodomonte to take her with him. But he roughly rejects them.

The enchanted grotto

Scene 13. In front of Alcina's cave, Orlando and Pasquale have come first. After a brief argument between Orlando and his timid squire, Orlando calls out the sorceress to revile her and punish her for supporting his opponents. Alcina quickly transforms it into a stone. Pasquale is sick.

Scene 14. Finally, Angelica, Medoro, Eurilla and Rodomonte also appear - the first three fearful, the latter, as usual, threatening. While Pasquale tries in vain to sneak away, Alcina shows the others the petrifying Orlando. Since Angelica magnanimously renounces another punishment, Alcina transforms him back. But Orlando remains dangerous and immediately relapses into his usual threats. Alcina collapses part of the cave to imprison him.

Third act

Dark forest with a view of the Lethe river and the Elyseian fields

Scene 1. Alcina brought Orlando to the underworld. There he is sleeping on a boulder when Caronte ( Charon , the ferryman of the underworld) approaches in his boat (Caronte: "Ombre insepolte"). Alcina orders him to drizzle the forehead of Orlando, who is only partially cured by her magic, so that he forgets Angelica. After she has withdrawn, Orlando wakes up confused (Orlando: "Miei pensieri, dove siete?").

Room in the castle

Scene 2. Pasquale and Eurilla are relieved that the danger is over and that they can finally get married.

Scene 3. But suddenly Orlando appears and asks his squire to follow him. Fortunately, he is behaving completely normally again, no longer remembers Angelica and wants to leave the country. Since Eurilla doesn't want to lose her lover Pasquale again, she goes after them.


Scene 4. Angelica is threatened by wild forest dwellers. Medoro tries to defend them but falls in battle. Orlando and Rodomonte appear and fight the attackers together.

Courtyard decorated with loggias

Scene 5. Angelica laments the fate of Medoro. She wants to follow him to death. In delirium, she relived his last minutes (Angelica: “Dell'estreme sue voci dolenti”).

Scene 6. Alcina comes with the news that she has healed Medoro again. Rodomonte reports that he has reconciled with Orlando and that they were able to defeat the barbarians together. Orlando no longer poses any danger. Alcina explains Orlando's healing by bathing in the Lethe River. The moral of the story is that all genuine love is immortal if it is not wiped out by a wave of fate. Orlando is amazed at her speech - he has forgotten his previous actions.

Scene 7. Medoro, Eurilla and Pasquale join in, and Medoro and Angelica find each other happily. Since Alcina finds the place too bleak for the happy occasion, she transforms the castle into a temple of love. Orlando says goodbye and dismisses Pasquale, who can now marry Eurilla. Everyone celebrates the happy ending.


Haydn's opera Orlando paladino , with its mixture of serious and comical parts, is often assigned to the genre of opera semiseria (in the broader sense) in literature. It consists of a series of loosely connected episodes of various kinds that refer to chivalric novels, heroic epics, the opera seria , the magic theater or the commedia dell'arte . Accordingly, the material contains magical, heroic and comic elements. This mixture was very popular in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as evidenced by operas by Vivaldi , Handel and other composers. With Pietro Metastasio's opera reform , which was based on rationality and ethics, this combination, like the representation of insanity, was not compatible and largely disappeared from the stages in the middle third of the 18th century. It was only when the librettists and composers broke away from these principles that “heroic-comic” musical dramas based on the old motifs became popular again.


The orchestral line-up for the opera includes the following instruments:


The music of the opera is designed according to the role type of the respective character. The serious roles Angelica and Medoro have plaintive or passionate arias and accompaniment recitatives in the style of the opera seria , while the comic roles like Pasquale or Rodomonte are more like opera buffa or parody various contemporary styles. The role of Orlando changes in the course of the opera. At the beginning it was buffon-like, but at the end it seemed downright tragic.

The role of the mad Orlando corresponds most directly to the opera's “heroic-comic” name. Medoro and Rodomonte also have both heroic and comic elements. The secondary characters also have individual traits. The shepherdess Eurilla is lyrical and occasionally joking. The fearful and at the same time boastful squire Pasquale is reminiscent of Mozart's Leporello or Papageno. Pasquale's game is extensive. Two cavatins and two arias are dedicated to him. He also has a duet with Eurilla and is involved in the finals. However, in contrast to all the other roles, he lacks a separate stanza in the final vaudeville , although one of these was still included in the Prague and Vienna libretti of the previous operas. The music of the ferryman Caronte is simple but atmospheric. Like Pasquale, the roles of Medoro (Don Ottavio) and Angelica (Donna Anna) are reminiscent of characters from Mozart's Don Giovanni .

The arias are in one or two parts.

  • Alcina's “Ad un guardo, a un cenno solo” (first act, scene 3) is a large, coloratureless bravura aria.
  • Pasquale's "Ho viaggiato in Franca, in Spagna" (first act, scene 6) is "purely buffonesk with a [...] babbling tone"
  • Angelica's “Non partir, mia bella face” (first act, scene 7) has two different tempos and bears clear characteristics of the opera seria.
  • Orlando's one-part aria “D'Angelica il nome!” (First act, scene 8), on the other hand, is typically Buffonese. It consists of short phrases accompanied by string staccati.
  • Angelica's dark scene in the garden (first act, scene 11) is characterized by diminished sixth chords .
  • Orlando Wahnsinnsszene (first act, scene 13) forms the finale of the first act, which, contrary to the usual standards, is an Accompagnato recitative.
  • Rodomonte's D minor aria “Mille lampi d'accese faville” (second act, scene 2) is a stormy and carefully crafted parody.
  • Angelica's two-part rondo aria “Aure chete, verdi allori” (second act, scene 5) formally anticipates Donna Anna's “Non mi dir” from Mozart's Don Giovanni , which appeared a few years later . Here, virtuoso coloratura passages compete with a solo oboe.
  • In the aria “Ecco spiano. Ecco il mio trillo “(second act, scene 11) Pasquale presents himself as a French singing master and introduces the various singing elements: Messa di voce , trills , syncope , arpeggio , staccato, furioso, andantino up to castrati coloratura in the highest register.
  • Orlando's "Miei pensieri, dove siete?" (Third act, scene 1) shows with simple means such as stretched tempos and condensed harmonies that Orlando is not yet completely healed.

The final scenes of the first two acts are richly designed “chain finals” of 539 and 416 bars. The vaudeville at the end of the third act, on the other hand, is formally based on that of Haydn's La vera costanza and at the end also on the vaudeville “I will never fail to recognize your grace” from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail .

Work history

German title page of the libretto, Dresden 1792

The main lines of the plot of Haydn's opera Orlando paladino are based on the Medoro episode from the verse epic Orlando furioso (1516) by Ludovico Ariosto , which has already been performed in many operatic versions. Among other things, Carlo Francesco Badini wrote the libretto for the "Dramma giocoso" Le pazzie di Orlando, which was first played in 1771 in a setting by Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi in London. This text was revised by Nunziato Porta in 1775 for a Prague performance in 1775 under the title Orlando paladino , in which Guglielmi's music was also partially replaced. In 1777 this opera, now possibly with music by Pasquale Anfossi , was also performed in Vienna.

Haydn was commissioned to compose the opera on the occasion of a visit planned for October 1782 by the Russian Grand Duke Grand Duke Paul and his German wife Maria Fjodorovna in Eszterháza . For this purpose, Porta, who was appointed opera director there in 1781, revised the Vienna version of the libretto again. He exchanged all of the arias of Squire Pasquale, revised Angelica's text and expanded the finale. Since the Grand Duke's visit ultimately did not take place, the opera was not premiered until December 6, 1782, the name day of Prince Nikolaus Joseph Esterházy . Haydn submitted the duet Angelica / Medoro “Qual contento io provo in seno” (second act, scene 8) before the premiere.

Metilde sang Bologna (Angelica), Domenico Negri (Rodomonte), Antonio Specioli (Orlando), Prospero Braghetti (Medoro), Leopold Dichtler (Licone and Caronte), Maria Antonia Specioli (Eurilla), Vincenzo Moratti (Pasquale), Costanza at the world premiere Valdesturla (Alcina). With the exception of Braghetti, they had all sung in Haydn's La fedeltà premiata in 1781/82 .

Orlando paladino turned out to be Haydn's most successful opera. There were 30 performances in Eszterháza alone up to 1784. Then it was played in German with spoken dialogues instead of secco recitatives in many other cities. Performances in Pressburg 1786 ( Roland der Pfalzgraf , German text by Franz Xaver Girzik), Prague and Brno 1791, Vienna 1791/92, Dresden (in Italian), Pest and Mannheim 1792, Donaueschingen, Frankfurt am Main, Cologne and Graz 1793 are known , Nuremberg 1796, Berlin, Hanover and Bremen 1798, Oels 1799, Leipzig and Munich 1800, Augsburg and Ballenstedt 1802, Königsberg 1803, Hamburg and Breslau 1805 and Petersburg 1813. Thirteen German and eight Italian copies of the score have survived. Unfinished corrections from Haydn's hand have been preserved for the German-language performance in Mannheim, which show his care in the linguistic revision. In 1799 a piano reduction in German was published in Bonn.

Haydn later used all of Orlando paladino's arias again in other operas. The final vaudeville he processed in a choir of L'anima del filosofo . In addition, the music of the duet Eurilla / Pasquale "Quel tuo visetto amabile" (second act, scene 4) was used as an insert duet in a London performance of Martín y Soler's opera Il burbero di buon cuore and probably also in 1796 in Dresden in Joseph Weigls La caffettiera bizzarra (here with the original text). Like all of Haydn's operas, Orlando paladino was no longer performed in the 19th century.

Orlando paladino was rediscovered in 1932 when Ernst Latzko heavily reworked the work for a performance in Leipzig with the title Ritter Roland . Since then there have been a number of other productions in German, English and Italian. The original version appeared in 1972/73 as part of the Haydn Complete Edition. It was played in 1982 as part of the Wiener Festwochen in the Theater an der Wien and at the Festival de Carpentras, in 1983 at the Stadttheater Basel and in 1984 in Gelsenkirchen. There were further performances at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt in 1995, in Kassel in 1998, in Kaiserslautern in 1999 and in Vienna in 2007, the latter with the Concentus Musicus Vienna under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt . In 2009 there was a production by the Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin under the direction of René Jacobs in a production by Nigel Lowery and Amir Hosseinpour , which was also released on DVD.



  • Luciano Paesani: Nunziato Porta. Il fantasma dell'Opera (= Aracne. 10: Scienze dell'antichità, filologico-letterarie e storico-artistiche. 236). Aracne editore, Rome 2007, ISBN 978-88-548-1134-8 (with reprint of the libretto editions from 1775 and 1782).

Web links

Commons : Orlando paladino  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ariost's mad Roland  - sources and full texts

(A template for the plot that was well known at the time)

Individual evidence

  1. According to the preface to the libretto and the scene sketch by Pietro Travaglia.
  2. a b c d e f g h i Caryl Clark:  Orlando paladino. In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Georg Feder: Orlando paladino. In: Piper's Encyclopedia of Musical Theater . Volume 2: Works. Donizetti - Henze. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-492-02412-2 , pp. 761-763.
  4. a b Orlando paladino. In: Reclam's Opernlexikon. Philipp Reclam jun., 2001. Digital Library, Volume 52, p. 1865.
  5. a b c d e Herbert Schneider , Reinhard Wiesend (ed.): The opera in the 18th century (= manual of the musical genres. Volume 12). Laaber, 2001, ISBN 3-89007-135-X , pp. 86-88.
  6. a b c d e f g Ulrich Schreiber : Opera guide for advanced learners. From the beginning to the French Revolution. 2nd Edition. Bärenreiter, Kassel 2000, ISBN 3-7618-0899-2 , pp. 400-401.
  7. ^ Le pazzie d'Orlando (Joseph Haydn) in the Corago information system of the University of Bologna .
  8. ^ A b Horst Seeger : The great lexicon of the opera. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1978. Special edition for Pawlak, Herrsching 1985, p. 416.
  9. a b c Orlando paladino. In: Harenberg opera guide. 4th edition. Meyers Lexikonverlag, 2003, ISBN 3-411-76107-5 , pp. 348-349.
  10. a b c Franz Joseph Haydn. In: Andreas Ommer: Directory of all opera complete recordings. Zeno.org , volume 20.
  11. Orlando Paladino DVD. Review in Tutti magazine (French), accessed March 25, 2017.