music from the Orlando Innamorato


Meeting of Rugiero and Bradamante (Orlando Innamorato, Book 3, canto 5)
lyrics and translation from CD booklet

Composed by Grant Herreid. Performed by Ex Umbris (Grant Herreid, Christa Patton, Paul Shipper, Tom Zajac).

The Diamond of Ferrara: Music from the Court of Ercole I.

Debuted at Corpus Christi Church in New York City on October 9, 1994, in a joint program “O Triumphale Diamante: Music of Renaissance Ferrara,” co-sponsored by the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America and Music Before 1800, in the context of “Boiardo 1994 in America: The American Boiardo Quincentennial Conference,” hosted by the Department of Italian, Columbia University (October 7-9, 1994). Recorded December 1994 at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York, NY. First released by the Comune di Scandiano (1996). Currently available on the Dorian label (#93225).

Haar, James. Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Jeanneret, Christine. “Il Ruggiero tra musica popolare e colta nel Cinquecento e nel Seicento.” In L’eredità di Diego Carpitella: Etnomusicologia, antropologia e ricerca storica nel Salento e nell’area mediterranea. Eds. Maurizio Agamennone and Gino L. Di Mitri. Nardò (LE): BESA, 2003. 221-236.


Gabriele Martinengo, “Quando la terr’è più verd’e fiorita” (Boiardo)

NARRAR CON PAROLE E CON MUSICA: PERCORSI CINQUECENTESCHI DAL DECAMERON ALL’INNAMORATO. Concerto 8 novembre 2013 Auditorium “E. Morricone” – Università “Tor Vergata” Roma.



Musical compositions and arrangements

The recitation and/or singing of epic poetry with the accompaniment of musical instruments played an important role in the musical life of sixteenth-century northern Italy both in the courts and in the streets. Giovanni Prampolini notes that “da numerose testimonianze coeve, letterarie o iconografiche, risulta che le stanze poetiche boiardesche e ariostesche sono recitate anche da cantastorie presso un pubblico meno colto rispetto ai circoli di corte, nelle piazze e per le strade.”[i] As examples, Prampolini cites Jacopo Coppa da Modena and Ippolito ‘Ferrarese’ as famous sixteenth-century cantastorie who included the “storie di Orlando” by Boiardo and Ariosto in their repertory as they traveled around the peninsula.[ii] Maria Lettiero, who has traced musical adaptations of Boiardo’s ottava rima stanzas across sixteeth-century Italy, published the transcriptions of seven previously unedited madrigals based on Berni’s rifacimento of the poem.[iii]

James Haar notes that sixteenth-century street singers published, often anonymously, opuscoli, “little booklets of rhymes often based on passages from the epic romances of Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto.”[iv] Haar identified as the “Aria di Rugiero ” a tune associated with Ruggiero that was included in Jacquet de Berchem’s polyphonic settings of stanzas from the Furioso (mid-sixteenth century).[v] Grant Herreid used this example of “recitazione intonata” when setting to music the enamorment of Bradamante and Rugiero from Book Three of the Innamorato, recorded by the early music group Ex Umbris in 1994.[vi]


Melodrama, Ballet, and Opera

There are numerous baroque melodramas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with characters from the Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso as well as the Carolingian cycle.[vii] The overwhelming majority of these works feature Ariosto’s poem and at most incorporate Innamorato episodes as part of the backstory.[viii] Vivaldi’s first opera for the Venetian stage, however, was a “spin off” of the Innamorato.[ix] Orlando finto pazzo premiered in 1714 following in the wake of Giovanni Maria Ristori’s Orlando furioso of the previous year, whose libretto was also composed by Grazio Braccioli. Scott Levin notes that due to a lack of historical records, no one today can state with certainty whether the opera was a success or a flop.[x] While some musicologists have interpreted Vivaldi’s multiple revisions as attempts to salvage the original opera, Levin points out that the composer typically revised his works during their run. The three-act opera recalls Orlando’s adventure in the Garden of Orgagna, here named Organa, with the maga Ersilla replacing Boiardo’s Falerina. Other Innamorato characters, namely Brandimarte, Grifone, and Origille, interact with two additional characters in vicissitudes that involve magic, unrequited love, and feigned madness.[xi]

Other elite works of previous centuries with links to the Innamorato include a comic opera and a ballet. The comic operatic adaptation of Boiardo’s Leodilla, Ordauro, and Folderico episode, entitled Il conte di Altamura, was first performed in Lucca in 1692 for an aristocratic public, restaged in Florence four years later with a revised libretto, and revived in Modena in the early eighteenth century. The plot interweaves Folderico’s attempts to restrict Leodilla’s freedom with her efforts to steal away with Ordauro. James Leve, noting that the Innamorato’s mal-maritata tale “provides an ideal framework for a comic opera,” investigates how the genre’s characteristic tendencies impacted the play’s dramatic design.[xii] The ballet entitled Rolando e Morgana ossia La distruzione dellisola incantata (1808) is based on Orlando’s adventures at Morgana’s lake. Composed by the Venetian-born Catterino Cavos, it was performed at the St. Petersburg court by the dancer and choreographer Charles Didelot.[xiii]



[i] Giovanni Prampolini, “Le ‘Storie di Orlando’ e la musica: ‘recitazioni intonate’ e madrigali,” in Le Storie di Orlando: Rappresentazioni pittoriche e sceniche dellInnamorato e del Furioso (Litostampa La Rapida, 2000), pp. 247-9 (p. 247).

[ii] Prampolini, p. 247.

[iii] Maria Lettiero, Le ottave di Boiardo nella cultura musicale del Cinquecento, prefazione di Agostino Zino, presentazione di Rino Caputo (Rome: Edicampus, 2011).

[iv] James Haar, Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 79.

[v] Haar, pp. 97-8.

[vi] The original compact disc containing “L’incontro di Rugiero e Bradamante” is not commercially available, but was later released as The Diamond of Ferrara (Dorian Records, 2001). The piece can also be found under “Music from the Orlando Innamorato” on eBOIARDO. <> See also Grant Herreid, “Singing Epic Song in Renaissance Italy,” in Teaching the Italian Renaissance Romance Epic, ed. by Jo Ann Cavallo (New York: Modern Language Association, 2018).

[vii] Prampolini, “Il melodramma,” in Le Storie di Orlando,” pp. 251-65, (p. 251).

[viii] See Edward Milton Anderson, Ariosto, Opera, and the Seventeenth Century: Evolution in the Poetics of Delight, ed. by Nicola Badolato, in collaboration with Amyrose McCue Gill (Florence: Olschki, 2017).

[ix] Paolo D’Achille, “L’Orlando del melodrama da Ariosto a Boiardo,” in Boiardo, il teatro, i cavalieri in scena, ed. by Giuseppe Anceschi and William Spaggiari (Novara: Interlinea, 2010), pp. 221-57 (p. 228).

[x] Scott Levin, “Vivaldi’s and Braccioli’s Adaptation of Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato: Orlando finto pazzo.” <>

[xi] Karen T. Raizen examines the Orlando finto pazzo, along with various Ariostean operas, in the context of the larger intellectual and cultural issues of eighteenth-century Italy in her Yale University dissertation entitled “Adaptations in Arcadia: Orlando furioso on the Eighteenth-Century Operatic Stage” (2017).

[xii] James Leve, “An Old Fool, a Comic Servant, and Four Young Lovers: Transforming Orlando innamorato into the Florentine Comic Opera Il conte di Altamura,” in Music Observed: Studies in Memory of William C. Holmes, ed. by Colleen Reardon and Susan Parisi (Warren, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 2004), pp. 231-43 (p. 233).

[xiii] Prampolini, “Il balletto,” in Le Storie di Orlando,” pp. 267-9 (p. 269).


Above paragraphs from the following essay:

Cavallo, Jo Ann. “Textual, Musical and Theatrical Adaptations of the Orlando Innamorato.” In “Fortuna ogni ora più diversa”: The Reception of Boiardo’s Inamoramento de Orlando and Pulci’s Morgante. Ed. Giovanna Rizzarelli. Italian Studies 74.2 (2019): 130-147.