Under the Rainbow: Rossini's 'Tancredi'

Amenaide is the daughter of Argirio, the leader of Syracuse. Argirio has had a long, violent feud with a neighboring leader, Orbazzano. During that conflict, Amenaide was sent away, temporarily, to Byzantium. There, she met the Saracen leader Solamir, and the young Knight Tancredi, an exile from Syracuse. Solamir made overtures to Amenaide, but she turned him down, and gave her heart to Tancredi.

As ACT ONE begins, back in Syracuse, Argirio and his enemy Orbazzano are making up. They plan to join forces to repel a Saracen invasion. As a token of friendship, Argirio has decided to give Orbazzano a present: Amenaide.

Well, she's not thrilled at the prospect of marrying Orbazzano. She's heard that Tancredi might be returning, and she hopes they might get back together. But Tancredi still isn't welcome in Syracuse. He was ordered into exile on threat of death. So Amenaide sends him a secret note urging him to stay away for his own safety.

Tancredi shows up anyway, in disguise -- and he's just in time to hear Argirio insist that Amenaide marry Orbazzano. When Tancredi finally gets Amenaide alone, she's so afraid for him that she demands that he get out immediately. That's not exactly the reception he was looking for. After all, he did risk his life to come back for her. So he decides to stay in disguise, and offers to join the fight against the Saracens.

Then, somehow, Orbazzano gets hold of Amenaide's letter to Tancredi, which leads to trouble. The letter is worded so vaguely that Orbazzano thinks it's a love-letter to her old Byzantine suitor, Solamir, leader of the hated Saracens. Orbazzano suggests that Amenaide be sentenced to death for this apparently traitorous behavior. Her father Argirio tends to agree. So, by the time the first act ends, she's been abandoned by Tancredi, disowned by her father, and led away to prison.

As ACT TWO begins, Argirio is persuaded to sentence Amenaide to death. But as they're about to lead her off to be executed, Tancredi shows up again -- once again in disguise -- to be her champion. Tancredi and Orbazzano fight to the death. Tancredi wins, and Amenaide is freed.

But Tancredi is still uncertain about Amenaide's fidelity. She wants to reassure him, but she can't. Tancredi is still an exile in disguise. If she declares her love, he'll be found out -- and he'll wind up as dead as Orbazzano. So Amenaide stays mum, and Tancredi goes off in despair to join the fight against Solamir and the Saracens.

Tancredi returns from the battle victorious, after learning from the defeated Solamir that any suspicions about Amenaide are unfounded: She has been faithful all along. Tancredi and Amenaide are joyfully reunited as the opera ends.