Ariodante at Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Ariodante at Lyric Opera of Chicago



by George Frideric Handel
Sung in Italian with projected English translations


What happens when someone your town trusts is actually the villain? For Ginevra and her beloved Ariodante, things may never be the same. Lyric is proud to produce the company premiere of this important Baroque masterpiece from the composer of Messiah which marries stunning vocalism and riveting drama.

Making its U.S. debut, this critically-acclaimed Lyric coproduction from Director Richard Jones updates the story to 1970s Scotland, where a close-knit, fundamentalist community provides the thought-provoking backdrop. The Toronto Globe and Mail says, "The decisions Jones has made to update and deepen the resonances of the opera work beautifully both to preserve the integrity of the original and add to it touches and textures that only a modern audience can appreciate…If you needed one example to demonstrate why modern staging and perfectly realized music from the past need each other, this was it."

Don't miss this highly anticipated Lyric premiere that critics are calling "dramatically complex... deliciously interesting" – (The Toronto Star).

Read the director's notes on this production

Please be advised that Ariodante includes mature themes.


Monument Fund


Production of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, in coproduction with Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam; Canadian Opera Company, Toronto; and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Approximate Running Time: 3 hours, 55 minutes with 2 intermissions


Photo: Cory Weaver

Director's Note on Ariodante

Ariodante stands out as one of Handel’s more melancholy works. It’s full of psychologically rich and interesting characters, with innocent lovers Ariodante and Ginevra at the center of it all. Inspired by the original Edinburgh setting of the opera, we set this production on a remote Scottish island in the late 1960s or early ’70s. It’s a close-knit, male-dominated community with a strong moral center rooted in Calvinism. Their industry is based on fishing and wool, which is reflected in the costume designs that have islanders dress in Aran-style sweaters and kilts. It’s a physical, working community, so while the production is set in the twentieth century, there is a sense of timelessness in the costumes and the dress is similar for men and women. Only Ginevra stands apart, with her more feminine clothes.

The islanders are essentially good people. Though they may have weaknesses, they have a strong moral compass. There is only one character who is really, actively bad among them: Polinesso. In our production, he takes the form of an outsider: a charlatan preacher from a city on the mainland. He’s charismatic and interested in young women who haven “ecstatic” qualities, such as Ginevra. But he has a very cruel, misogynistic streak, reminiscent of certain passages in the Old Testament. The king of the island is in a psychological slump after the death of his wife and takes comfort in Polinesso’s teachings, blind to the evil infiltrating his community.

While the opera is titled Ariodante, Ginevra is the other character at its heart. She’s a young woman singled out and punished by a male-dominated community for her sense of imagination and fantasy. In our production, she makes a very important decision, in the light of everything that happens to her, that radically reinterprets the opera’s traditional ending and paradigm of redemption. Her betrothed from a neighboring island, Ariodante, is sensitive, sincere and noble-hearted, both in happiness and defeat. Lurcanio (Ariodante’s brother), driven by his anger and sense of justice, encourages the king to act violently. Dalinda (the other main female character in the opera) is tortured by her own blinkered desire and Polinesso’s machinations. In the midst of this, Ginevra is always moving forward, while the others are immobilized by their anger, their masochism, or their depression.

While we’ve taken inspiration from the nineteenth-century theater of Ibsen and Strindberg for the overall style of the production, we’ve added a choreographed dimension to our sense of realism that responds to the formality of eighteenth-century musical forms, punctuating our psychological exploration of Ariodante. A significant feature of the production is that we stage the “Dances” composed at the end of each act as puppet sequences performed by the island community as expressions of their hopes and fears, in response to unfolding events.

Benjamin Davis, Revival Director
Reprinted courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company

Ariodante Opera Resources

Join us in the theater one hour before the curtain rises for a free, 30-minute preview talk about the opera. Learn more about pre-opera talks.


Ariodante at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Opera Commentary

commentary by Derek Matson

(right click and "Save Target As" / "Save Link As")

Ariodante at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Audio Highlights

"Volate amori"

"Se rinasce nel mio cor...Si godete al vostro amor"

"Dopo notte atra e funesta"
Ariodante at Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Music for Ariodante is generously furnished by Warner Classics.
© 2018/19 Lyric Opera Commentaries. All rights reserved. Recording & Production services provided by Mark Travis.

Photos: Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company

Featured Media

See what critics are saying about ARIODANTE

Revival Director Ben Davis on ARIODANTE

A look at the Puppets of ARIODANTE

Alice Coote on the Plot of Handel's ARIODANTE

The Power of Handel's Music with Michael Black

Putting on the Pants: Alice Coote on Trouser Roles