, to a libretto by Jacopo Durandi freely based on Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata
, was Cherubini’s first true Florentine opera, but it did not enjoy great success. Its most disorientating feature was the marked orchestral profile of Cherubini’s style, which did not provide the clear distinction between aria and recitative to which contemporary ears were accustomed. And indeed Cherubini’s evident personality as a symphonist even in his early twenties is asserted right from the Sinfonia from Armida
, which opens with an Allegro assai that announces the bold grandeur of the piece; it is nourished by simply fashioned but skilfully scored themes, developed in broad crescendos and extremely rapid rhythmic figures that seem to foreshadow Rossini. The vocal writing, on the other hand, still betrays its links with the eighteenth-century tradition, as is shown by the aria ‘Qual da venti combattuta’ sung by Princess Zelmira (Act II). This is a typical aria di tempesta, that is to say it describes agitated mental states with textual metaphors evoking images of storm-tossed ships and a vocal style that glosses these in virtuoso fashion. Driven by impetuous violin figuration, this brief aria opens with an orchestral introduction into which glides a vocal line streaked with lightning flashes of coloratura.
from notes by Francesco Ermini Polacci © 2012
English: Charles Johnston