The same uneasiness with which opera has historically portrayed non-Western cultures still echoes in today’s mass media. Armida is a multimedia installation that explores the asymmetries of race, gender and religion between the West and the Muslim world, depicted since the Middle Ages as a perpetual unknown, always exotic, sometimes a threat.
Armida first appeared in the First Crusade epic narration Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso. Since then, her character has been central to more than ten different operas: the first, by Monteverdi, in 1627; the last, by British composer Judith Weir, in 2005.
She is a Syrian warrior enchantress that falls in love with Rinaldo, an European knight conflicted by her beauty, mystery and sensuousness. In some versions, Armida is imprisoned in a magic island, in others she commits suicide: in none Armida and Rinaldo remain together.
Image caption: Rodrigo Azaola. We grew here, You flew here (2018). Intervened image based on the facsimile Armide: Tragédie Mise En Musique by Jean-Baptiste Lully (Paris: Ballard, 1686).