Opera seria in three acts by Georg Friedich Händel
Performed in Italian with German surtitles
Orlando, a knight and paladin of Charlemagne, has gone astray. The warrior famed for his heroism seems to have left the path of war and only wishes to dedicate himself to his love for the beautiful princess Angelica. This fact is something the sorcerer Zoroastro refuses to accept, who claims he can see future glory and heroism in the stars for Orlando. To return him to the path of Mars, the God of War, he reminds him of the heroes of antiquity. But his words are for nothing: Orlando retorts with the example of Hercules and Achill, who were more than prepared to combine arms and love.
Shepherdess Dorinda has also seen that Orlando is only using his sword in the service of love. She herself feels drawn to Medoro, an African prince, whom, together with Angelica, she found wounded on the battlefield and nursed back to health. Medoro decides to take the hand of Angelica, however, who has also fallen for him. As Orlando initially protected Angelica as a warrior and guardian of her castle, Albracca, the princess feels a sense of loyalty to him, and does not risk revealing her feelings for Medoro. Instead of this, she pretends to be jealous and asks the paladin to prove his love through knightly deeds. The couple can no longer keep their relationship a secret from Dorinda, however. As thanks for her help nursing Medoro, Angelica gives her a valuable bracelet which was originally a gift to her from Orlando.
Orlando discovers the bracelet that has been given to Dorinda and finds out about Angelica's and Medoro's love. Deeply hurt, he swears to take revenge. The ever-present Zoroastro warns the couple about the aggrieved Orlando and advises them to take flight. Before they say goodbye to the forest that is their home with heavy hearts, however, they engrave their names in the bark of a tree. A little later, during his search for the lovers, Orlando finds their entwined engraving and sinks into deep recrimination. Ready to die, he sees himself on the cusp of the underworld and senses that he can feel the might of the furies. The pain he has never known renders him insane.
Medoro and Angelica have been separated during their escape by the frenzied Orlando, and Dorinda joins Medoro on the search for the lost Angelica. Even though she doesn't have Medoro's heart, Dorinda decides to stand by him. Orlando then appears, who in his delirium declares his love for the shepherdess, only to want to kill her a little later. Furious, Dorinda tells her rival of the derangement to which the previously noble knight has succumbed. Replete with feelings of guilt, Angelica recalls Orlando's previous help, and longs to conquer the madness of his love. A little later, this hope is destroyed, however: in his furious rage, Orlando smashes everything that stands in his way and buries Medoro under the rubble. In his madness he confuses Angelica with his enemy and throws her from a rock to her apparent death. He then falls into a deep sleep. It is now time for Zoroastro to prevail. With the help of a potion he frees the paladin from his madness and brings Angelica and Medoro, whom he had protected from death, back to the fore. Orlando, who has conquered his demons, decides to dedicate his life to glory from now on.