Act 1 Scene 8. Aria: Con l'ali di costanza (Ariodante)
Act 1. Aria: Orrida a gl’occhi miei (Ginevra)
Act 2 Scene 3. Aria: Scherza infida! (Ariodante) E vivo ancora? E senza il ferro?
Act 3 Scene 9. Aria: Dopo notte (Ariodante)
Handel’s first Covent Garden opera, Ariodante, drawing on episodes from Ariosto’s epic Orlando furioso, duly incorporated ballet numbers for Sallé and her troupe at the end of each act. The setting is Edinburgh, though there is no trace of local colour, save Ariosto’s erroneous belief that in medieval Scotland a sexually unfaithful woman was automatically put to death. The crux of Ariosto’s plot—Duke Polinesso’s tricking of Ariodante into believing that Princess Ginevra, daughter of the King of Scotland, has betrayed him—was the source of the episode in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing in which Don John contrives to inflame the jealousy of his rival-in-love Claudio.
Ariodante scored a fair success on its premiere on 8 February 1735, and ran for a further ten performances. After Sallé, the biggest draw was the celebrated castrato Giovanni Carestini in the role of Ariodante. The music historian Charles Burney described him as ‘tall, beautiful, majestic … he rendered everything he sung interesting by good taste, energy, and judicious embellishments’. Handel exploited his ‘taste’, agility and two-octave range, going up to soprano high A, in a superb succession of arias that, as in all his greatest operas, simultaneously flatter the voice and illuminate the character.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2014