The legacy of the great Italian poet Torquato Tasso, once considered almost a peer of Dante, is hiding in plain sight. Although he is no more than a footnote today, he was once wildly popular, quoted by philosophers, emulated by poets, and a source of inspiration to painters and composers. Even his sad and tormented life was an obsession for the romantics, inspiring a play by Goethe, a poem by Byron, a painting by Delacroix and a symphonic study by Liszt.The characters who romped across the pages of Tasso's 1575 masterpiece, the epic poem "Gerusalemme Liberata," ("Jerusalem Delivered") live and breathe still, in paintings by Nicolas Poussin and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who captured them redolent with sexuality and pink-hued youth. And from the earliest days of opera in the 17th century, composers have turned to Tasso's intertwined tales of romance and heroism. Handel, Haydn, Rossini, even Dvorak wrote operas based on Tasso's amorous young things: the knights Rinaldo and Tancred, and their paramours Armida and Clorinda. If you've been to a museum, or to a concert of Italian madrigals, you know them well, even if you've never heard of the poet whose former fame is as astonishing as his current oblivion.On Saturday, the Washington area's best period instruments group, Opera Lafayette, will give the first musical installment of something it calls "The Armida Project," a look at two immensely influential and beautiful operas based on the sorceress who is perhaps Tasso's most enduring character. [...]
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on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 9:57 AM.
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