Dietro l'orme fugaci (HWV 105);Cantata
for soprano (c'-a''), two violins and bc
Armida Abbandonata dates in 1707, so it is among the first cantatas Handel wrote for Handel's patron Marchese Ruspoli. The libretto, author unknown, is based on Tasso’s poem Gerusalemme liberata in which the crusading knight Rinaldo escapes from Armida’s enchanted island. The cantata starts with a narrative recitative remarkably set to violin arpeggios with no basso continuo. This sets the scene of Rinaldo’s flight and Armida’s fruitless pursuit. The remainder of the work comprises, in Armida’s own voice, her pleading laments, her anger and curses, their recantation, and her eventual despair.
Ellen Harris (ref 1) shows that Armida’s situation and emotions have much in common with other wronged or abandoned women depicted in Handel’s works – Lucretia (2), Clori (Clori mia bella Clori), Hero (Ero e Leandro), and Agrippina (Agrippina condotto a morire). Their intense feelings give Handel the scope for the sort of dramatic musical expression in which he excels. Note that the music depicting the storm at the start of the aria Venti, fermate is similar to that of the storm in the slightly later cantata for bass, Cuopre tal volto il cielo. (3)