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Handel: Orlando, Act II Conclusion

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: saving poor Roland from himself…

Ludovico Ariosto’s sixteenth-century epic Orlando Furioso is one of the longest poetic works ever written. One of its most unusual passages is when the Carolingian knight Orlando, seriously bent out of shape by unhappy love, loses his wits and goes on a violent rampage spanning several continents. Eventually, a close friend is able to restore Orlando’s sanity by traveling to the moon, where he finds Orlando’s lost wits in a jar! Ariosto’s epic became a rich source for opera plots, but composers almost always treated the story very liberally, taking what they needed and often ignoring the theme of madness entirely! While Handel includes a stunning “mad scene” in his version, he (perhaps wisely) leaves out the bit about the moon. Orlando is saved instead by a timely intervention by the magician Zoroastre.

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