Judith Weir’s Armida is an updating of the Armida legend to a time recent enough for TV stations and smartphones. Rather than transporting the audience to the crusades in Damascus, it shows them that perhaps we have never left. The International Peacekeeping Force is in a desert war zone, somewhere outside an occupied city in the region of the Southern Sahara. The soldiers have the wrong equipment and the wrong maps, and a Chief-of-Staff who keeps getting things wrong. They are not the attacking force here, but are also not achieving anything by remaining outside the city.
The sorceress Armida is now a TV reporter within the occupied city, and Hidroat is no longer the King of Damascus, but the Director of Metropolis TV. When the officers invite the TV Reporters to visit their camp and do a feature on them, Metropolis TV responds. During an interview, Armida and Rinaldo disappear, but it is not magic this time, merely an explosion and a stolen van. Armida takes Rinaldo to her apartment, and the two of them fall in love over a mutual desire for peace.
Officers Ubaldo and Carlo attempt to rescue Rinaldo from the city, but get distracted from their mission by a tray of colorful drinks offered by the weather girl. Back at the camp, The Chief-of-Staff, Goffredo, is similarly distracted, but this time by planting crops and tending to goats. The war is over, and the world has been transformed. Everyone has found something else they would much rather be doing.
Weir cleverly references both Lully’s opera Armide and Gluck’s later rewriting of the same libretto in her baroque style duets and love scenes, but this opera written for television is a hopeful and refreshing interpretation of the Armida myth.
Armida guide sections