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Composed by Domencio Freschi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piccioli

The action is set in a place called “Phoenicia” that bears no resemblance to the historical land of the same name.


Spirited young Ermelinda is ready to die of boredom. Her father, the philosopher and physician Aristeo, has brought her to a rustic home to keep her safe from the temptations of urban Phoenicia. Luckily, her secret boyfriend, Prince Ormondo, has been trying to trace her whereabouts. Masquerading as a peasant named Clorindo, he is discovered by a nobleman, Armidoro, who takes a liking to him and invites him to stay at his home. Unknown to Clorindo, Armidoro too yearns for Ermelinda.

At Armidoro’s mansion, his sister, Ermelinda’s friend Rosaura, finds herself falling hard for Clorindo. When Ermelinda arrives, Clorindo/Ormondo greets her joyously. But fearing the consequences if their secret is found out, she denies knowing him and suggests he must be mad. Clorindo takes her hint and plays up the madness. Rosaura is heartbroken and languishes; Aristeo diagnoses that she is ill with love. Her plight is not helped by Clorindo’s reappearance and continued madness.


Armidoro too is languishing, but for Ermelinda. He confesses his love to her, but she rejects him. As he attempts to force himself on her, Clorindo intervenes violently. As Rosaura arrives, Ermelinda, thinking fast, claims that Clorindo has gone mad again. Clorindo is led off in chains. Ermelinda is devastated.

Clorindo, chained to a rock, laments his fate. Aristeo proposes to treat his madness with the latest horrible medical cures. After Aristeo leaves, Ermelinda arrives and explains a new ruse: she will provoke Clorindo in front of Rosaura, and then he will suddenly turn “sane” again. The farce is played out, and Rosaura sets him free. As she runs to inform her brother of Clorindo’s miraculous recovery, Clorindo and Ermelinda plot to flee together. But they are discovered by Aristeo and Armidoro, who decide to imprison Clorindo in a dark, lonely shack. Aristeo is deaf to his daughter’s pleas. Armidoro is beset with jealousy.


Ermelinda laments outside Clorindo’s prison. He hears her and replies, fearing he will die. Rosaura arrives and accuses Ermelinda of loving Clorindo; she denies it, saying he was in the grip of another spell of madness when they were discovered together. Rosaura no longer knows what to believe. Armidoro and Aristeo ponder how to resolve the predicament. Aristeo decides they should tell Ermelinda that Clorindo has died.

Rosaura is still uncertain whether to believe Ermelinda. As they bicker, Armidoro enters with the news that Clorindo is dead. Ermelinda erupts in grief and rage, reveals Clorindo’s true identity, and rushes off to kill herself rather than live without him. Armidoro, despairing of women, orders Rosaura to free Clorindo. When Clorindo returns, she reveals that she now knows his true identity, and tries to persuade him that Ermelinda has betrayed him. He, however, refuses to live without his beloved. Rosaura resolves to try new tactics.

Ermelinda is preparing to kill herself. In an effort to dissuade her, Aristeo and Armidoro point out Clorindo’s discarded peasant clothing as evidence that he is dead and she should forget him. The despairing girl is about to stab herself when Clorindo, now the princely Ormondo again, intervenes. Seeing the depth of their devotion, Aristeo, Armidoro, and the unhappy Rosaura are forced to give the pair their blessings.

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