After victoriously defeating the armies of King Godefroi of Jerusalem using only her magic power, Armide is still not satisfied. She will not be satisfied until one of her enemy's knights, Renaud, is finally defeated. But there is something about Renaud that unsettles this powerful and controlling Princess of Damascus. Armide knows she hates Renaud with every ounce of hatred she can muster, but somewhere inside her the smallest flame of love burns.
Armide captures Renaud while he is asleep, but as she raises the knife to execute him, her hand is stopped. The love she feels overwhelms her, and she cannot bear to harm him. Instead, she steals Renaud away to an enchanted palace on the other side of the world to try and come to terms with how she feels. She knows that she should hate him, so she summons La Haine, hatred herself, to replenish her own capacity for hatred. Even La Haine cannot overcome the love that has filled Armide’s heart, and curses her to be forever controlled by this love.
Two valiant knights brave the monsters and enchantments of Armide’s desert to find the palace and rescue Renaud. They call him back to serve the glory they fight for, and Renaud gratefully accepts. Without her hatred, Armide has no power to stop Renaud leaving. She will remain in her palace, still desperately loving him, until it finally defeats her.
Despite there already being an incredibly successful and popular opera to Phillipe Quinault’s libretto, written by the popular French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, that did not deter German composer, Christoph Willibald Gluck, from producing his own setting of this French text. With its premier 90 years after Lully’s, Gluck’s work was surprisingly successful, and brought this popular story into the newly developed conventions of the operatic world in the 18th century.
Armide (Gluck) guide sections