The legendary warrior, Giasone (Jason) has set out with his Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece, knowing that whoever captures the Fleece will receive the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly as a reward. On his journey, he first stopped at Lenno and fell in love with Queen Isifile (Hypsipyle) and promised to marry her. The appointed day grew nearer and Giasone left Isifile, pregnant and unwed.
On arriving into Colchis, where the Golden Fleece is, Giasone meets the enchanting Queen Medea, and falls deeply in love with her, forgetting about his promise to Isifile. Medea has grown quite bored of King Egeo, to whom she is engaged, and delights in the pleasures offered by this young hero. She supports Giasone’s quest by procuring a magic ring for him. Giasone faces the monsters protecting the Fleece, and returns victorious and unharmed.
He and Medea flee Colchis, intending to claim Giasone’s prize and be crowned King and Queen together. But fate has another plan for them. Giove and Amore ask Eolo, the keeper of the winds, to send a storm to drive Giasone back to Isifile. Amore will exert his power over them all, and the storm will continue until Isifile and Giasone are properly reunited. Meanwhile, King Egeo follows Medea and Giasone in a small boat, which is wrecked in the storm.
Forced to take shelter on the land, Giasone is now approached by Isifile. She reveals that he is the father of twin sons, and begs for him to return to her. Without him as her husband, Isifile has lost her throne and her home. Medea encourages Giasone to get rid of Isifile and he plots to have her killed, instructing Besso to throw her into the sea. Not knowing who he is supposed to kill, and simply carrying out his master’s instructions, Besso mistakenly throws Medea into the sea. King Egeo, who washed up on the same shore just hours before, sees everything and dives in to rescue Medea.
Giasone is wracked with guilt at the thought of murdering Isifile, and realizes he really loved her. When all is revealed, Giasone finally breaks down and begs Isifile for mercy. The couples are all reunited, as Amore intended, and Zeffiro showers them in petals blown on the warm west wind.
Cavalli’s Il Giasone is an excellent example of early baroque opera, combining both tragic and comic characters to retell the legendary story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Il Giasone guide sections