Basically the story of the opera centres around the tussle between good and evil, the good being personified in Zoroastre with his love for Amelite and the evil in the sorceror Abramante allied to Erinice, the sister of Amelite who also desires Zorostrate but is vengeful because of rejection.
Rameau was 66 when he composed this piece and it reflects his maturity with its sensuous and cleverly designed music. There are layers of interpretation which are easy to miss but the excellent one hour documentary gives a great introduction and should be viewed first, something I failed to do and so became somewhat perplexed about what was going on. Unfortunately the accompanying booklet gives no written synopsis, an silly omission as the 4 minute verbal description is next to useless. I extracted one from the net and it helped to explain what was going on.
L’histoire entre Les talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset et Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) est l’histoire d’une réussite. Les sept disques (Persée, Roland, Armide, Amadis, Phaéton, Bellérophon et cet Alceste) du compositeur d'origine italienne naturalisé français enregistrés par l’ensemble et le chef et claveciniste Français sont tous un véritable succès critique. En quelques années, Les talens Lyriques et Christophe Rousset sont passés maître du style et de l’écriture Lulliste au point d’être devenus un (le ?) véritable intournable du genre.
Armida abbandonata is one of Niccolo Jommelli's finest operas. It was the first he composed after returning to Naples from his triumphant years in Stuttgart (1754-1769), receiving its first performance at the Teatro San Carlo on May 30, 1770. Among those who attended was the 14-year old Mozart, whose report that Armida was "beautiful, but too serious and old-fashioned for the theater," has been frequently quoted and almost as frequently misunderstood. "The theater" almost certainly refers specifically to the San Carlo, which did indeed find Armida "too serious," in the sense of its harmonic and orchestral complexity, ironically a criticism Mozart himself would later encounter in Vienna.
Among the finest performers of early music and arbiters of period practices, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques turn their attention here to the composer whose work inspired the ensemble's name and purpose. In this 2000 disc devoted to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Rousset and his ensemble turn in vigorous and appealing performances that present Rameau's music in a new light. The chaste and sometimes severe Pièces de clavecin en concerts are dramatically transformed in these sumptuous versions for string orchestra and continuo.