Join in the joys of discovery! The operas of Vivaldi can stand alongside the very best of Handel, and Griselda is one of Vivaldi’s crowning glories. Director Peter Sellars and countertenor David Daniels return to Santa Fe for the first major U.S. production of Griselda, featuring Meredith Arwady in the title role and Isabel Leonard as Costanza.
July 16, 20, 29, August 4, 9, 19
Composed by Antonio Vivaldi
Sung in Italian
Gualtiero, king of Thessaly, has been forced by the will of the people to reject his queen, Griselda, because of her lowly origins. Gualtiero therefore resolves to prove Griselda's worth to his ungrateful subjects through a series of cruel trials, beginning with banishing her from the palace and preparing to put another queen in her place.
In a hall of the royal palace, and before the people, Gualtiero orders the former shepherdess Griselda to return to the forests from whence she came, never more to see her child, Everardo. Gualtiero further tests Griselda's loyalty by admitting to ordering the murder of their missing daughter, Princess Costanza, though in reality he has brought her up in secret, safe from the whims of his fickle subjects. Ottone, a knight, offers his services to Griselda, with whom he has long been in love and on whose behalf he is prepared to overthrow Gualtiero. Griselda rejects his advances.
Meanwhile, Princess Costanza has arrived at the palace – for it is she whom Gualtiero is supposed to marry. She takes leave of her lover Roberto, ignorant of the fact that Gualtiero is her own father – only the king and his confidant Corrado (Prince of Athens and Roberto's brother), know this. Roberto is overcome with pain at Gualtiero's kind words to his beloved Costanza, but can do nothing. As Griselda takes leave of her son, the vindictive Ottone abducts the child and flees the palace. Corrado attempts to reassure Griselda and promises that he will rescue Everardo by any means necessary.
In the royal apartments, Corrado encourages Costanza to remember her loyalty to her first love, Roberto. She understands her duty to the king, however, and so when Roberto appears she bids him leave. By a hut in the countryside, Griselda, dressed as a shepherdess, is again accosted by Ottone, who says he will kill her son if she does not give in to his advances. A guard duly brings Everardo before Griselda. Corrado, who is concealed, watches all this, and when Griselda still refuses to yield, makes himself known. Fooling Ottone into thinking he supports his cause, Corrado is given the boy, with whom he returns to the safety of the palace.
Costanza and Roberto walk nearby as Costanza begs her lover to leave her at peace while admitting that she still adores him. They find Griselda asleep in her hut. Costanza feels an inexplicable connection to her, and as she wakes Griselda, too, seems to recognize her long-lost daughter, but she says nothing of this. Gualtiero suddenly appears. Costanza requests that Griselda be her handmaid. Gualtiero, however, who is still scornful of Griselda, tells Costanza that this is none other than the former queen. Corrado arrives with soldiers to warn the king of Ottone's plans, but Gualtiero decides, to the disbelief of all, to leave his former queen to her fate. Ottone soon arrives with his men to take Griselda away, but Gualtiero returns with Costanza and has Ottone arrested. The king, however, still scorns Griselda, saying that she has only Costanza to thank for her deliverance.
Costanza, after seeing the behavior of the king, again swears to be faithful to Roberto, in union or in death. Griselda overhears their oath and heaps reproaches on them. She is incensed at such treachery, and moves to tell the king King Gualtiero appears with Corrado, who has also overheard the lovers and tells the king himself but, to general astonishment, turns on Griselda before commanding the lovers to be faithful.
The final test of Griselda's noble heart takes place in a magnificent reception room in the palace. Before his subjects Gualtiero attempts to force Griselda to marry Ottone, otherwise he will have her executed. Again Griselda refuses, to the delight of the king, who then reveals his true intent. Even Ottone is pardoned. The people are now convinced of Griselda's worthiness to be their queen, and she is restored to her daughter, her son, her husband and her throne.