Dvořak's Armida and the Czech Oriental "Self"

Nedbal, Martin

On the surface, Armida seems to project binary oppositions. The opera features a brave European hero, Rinald (whose name represents the Czech version of the more familiar "Rinaldo"). Rinald intrudes, together with his fellow crusaders, into the mysterious kingdom of the Syrian King Hydraot during their campaign to liberate Jerusalem. Rinald endangers the war plans of the crusaders by falling love with Hydraot's daughter Armida, and , as a result, he has to fight the brutal magician Ismen. At the end of the opera, Rinald and the crusaders overcome their Muslim opponents and continue their (colonizing) campaign in Syria. A closer consideration of the opera's libretto and music reveals the distinction between the European crusaders and Muslims is not straightforward as a simple Us/Them dichotomy would prescribe-a fact that several writers have commented upon.

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Columbia University
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October 20, 2014