OPERAS BASED ON ARIOSTO’S ORLANDO FURIOSO by Erik Sundquist
Wikipedia and some other sites provide useful information about operas and musical compositions based on material taken from Boiardo and Ariosto including lists with first performance dates and, in many cases, histories and synopses of individual operas. It said that the Orlando poems have inspired more music than any other literary works. Somewhere I saw a list of known operas that numbered at least one hundred. Most, of course, are by composers and librettists little known today or even lost, but a number composed between 1625 and 1843 survive in the repertory.
Clearly, however, poems like the Furioso or the Innamorato cannot be compressed into a single stage piece. Operas deal with selected episodes that can be adapted to stand alone and conform to contemporary operatic conventions. Consequently, unlike in the RAI TV series from the 70’s, original plot lines are treated with considerable freedom. Looking over the synopses, one recognizes major characters but finds scenarios that have only tenuous connections to the purported source materials. So generally it is more accurate to speak of musical worked inspired by the poems. Nonetheless, that inspiration produced a great deal of wonderful music.
Below are some links to articles. Within them are hyperlinks to specific works.
Here you will find a partial list of works with links to articles on the individual pieces
The general Wikipedia article “Orlando furioso” has a paragraph on music with a slightly more extensive list.
This page identifies some of the most important operatic adaptations with brief commentaries.
For more detailed study, scores in the public domain can be downloaded free from the Petrucci Library of Music.
It is interesting that the earliest known opera inspired by the Orlando epics is La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina, by Francesca Caccini (1625), also the first known opera composed by a woman and also apparently the first Italian opera produced outside of Italy.
Conveniently, much of this music, in audio or video recordings, can be found uploaded to YouTube by searching titles with composers’ names. Here are some video examples:
Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso (1727).
Handel’s Orlando (1733) complete, conducted by William Christie.
Haydn’s Orlando paladino (1782), a video of a Croatian production.
Balsano, Maria Antonella, ed. L’Ariosto, la musica, i musicisti. Firenze: Olschki, 1981.