Handel set a new standard for Italian opera with Radamisto, a musico-military spectacular that also celebrates the power of fidelity in marriage. This gorgeous and rarely heard work features a famously challenging title role, which will be sung by countertenor David Daniels, one of the world’s great Handelians, in his Santa Fe debut.
Farasmane, King of Thrace
Radamisto, son of Farasmane
Zenobia, Radamisto’s wife
Tiridate, King of Armenia, in love with Zenobia
Polissena, Tiridate’s wife, daughter of Farasmane
Tigrane, Prince of Pontus, ally of Tiridate, in love with Polissena
The action takes place in and around a city in Thrace, in Asia Minor, circa 51 AD. Tiridate, king of the neighboring state of Armenia, has become consumed with lust for Zenobia. She is married to Radamisto, who is himself the son of Farasmane, king of Thrace. Without divulging his true reason, Tiridate has invaded Thrace, captured Farasmane, and is now besieging the city where Radamisto and Zenobia are encamped.
The Story of the Opera
Polissena, Tiridate’s loyal but abandoned wife, prays in despair. Tiridate’s ally Tigrane, who is in love with Polissena, tries persuading her to leave Tiridate, but without success. Tiridate orders the city be destroyed. Radamisto learns that his father will be executed unless he surrenders, but Farasmane urges defiance. Tigrane then successfully captures the city. Tiridate reluctantly agrees that Farasmane may live if Radamisto and Zenobia are brought to him.
Radamisto and Zenobia use a secret tunnel to escape. They emerge on a riverbank in the countryside, but enemy soldiers soon appear. Zenobia begs her husband to kill her, but his half-hearted attempt to do so results in only a minor injury. Radamisto is captured and Tigrane takes him to Polissena. Zenobia is rescued from the river. Radamisto, disguised as a soldier, asks Polissena to take him to Tiridate, vowing to kill him and thereby avenge Zenobia's honor, but she refuses. Tiridate continues to pursue Zenobia, but is interrupted by Tigrane, who announces that Radamisto is dead. A messenger arrives to describe his death, but it is actually Radamisto in disguise. He gives a stirring account of his own “dying words,” proclaiming his love for Zenobia and urging her to continue resisting Tiridate. Zenobia recognizes Radamisto’s voice and vows to do so. Tiridate asks the messenger to help him win Zenobia’s heart, then leaves the two of them alone for a joyful but clandestine reunion.
Now repelled by Tiridate’s tyranny, Tigrane conspires to bring him to reason. Tiridate greets Zenobia as the queen of Thrace and Armenia, but she continues to reject him. When he tries to embrace her, the still-disguised Radamisto bursts in armed with a sword. Polissena intervenes to keep Tiridate from being killed and Farasmane accidentally reveals Radamisto’s identity. Tiridate orders his execution and Polissena pleads that Radamisto not be killed, but is brushed aside. Zenobia is determined to die with her husband, but Tiridate offers her a choice: either Zenobia shall become his wife or she shall witness her husband’s beheading. In the temple the executions are about to take place, when Polissena announces that Tigrane has led the army into revolt and now surround them. Radamisto asks Polissena to pardon Tiridate, which she does, much to her husband’s surprise. Tiridate is restored to the throne of Armenia, which he promises to rule with the mercy and wisdom of Radamisto. Farasmane will again rule Thrace, while Radamisto and Zenobia celebrate their happiness with a dance.
- Radamisto - David Daniels
- Polissena - Laura Claycomb
- Zenobia - Deborah Domanski
- Tigrane - Heidi Stober
- Tiridate - Luca Pisaroni
- Farasmane - Kevin Murphy
- Conductor - Harry Bicket
- Director - David Alden
- Scenic Designer - Gideon Davey
- Costume Designer - Gideon Davey
- Lighting Designer - Rick Fisher