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The Story of 'Imeneo'

ACT 1: Two young women, Rosmene and Clomiri have been kidnapped by pirates. Rosmene's sweetheart, Tirinto, and Clomiri's father, Argenio, are lamenting the women's fate.

But before long, the chorus announces the arrival of Imeneo, a brave young man who has a trick or two up his unusually flouncy sleeve. Dressed as a woman, he surprised the kidnappers while they were sleeping, killed them, and rescued the damsels in distress. Imeneo uses his grand entrance as an opportunity to stand, center stage, and change back into his masculine garb.

In return for his heroism, Imeneo claims the hand of Rosmene in marriage. Argenio, the local patriarch, agrees, leaving Tirinto jealous and heartsick. Rosmene has a choice to make.

The girls return, and we learn that Clomiri is in love with Imeneo — which may or may not be a problem. If Rosmene chooses Tirinto, perhaps Imeneo will settle down with Clomiri. If she chooses Imeneo, both Tirinto and Clomiri will be out of luck. Rosmene feels her choice is between desire and duty. She loves Tirinto, but owes a mortal debt to Imeneo.

There's certainly no doubt in Imeneo's heart. He says he saved his "turtledove," Rosmene, and killed the "hawks" who threatened her. To demonstrate, he grabs a shotgun and brings down a bevy of unfortunate ducks while singing his big, act-ending aria.

ACT 2:

Increasingly distraught by her dilemma, Rosmene appeals to the gods for guidance. Argenio urges her to do the right thing — meaning the honorable thing — and marry Imeneo, no matter how she feels about Tirinto.

"So," says Rosmene, "you will force me to be untrue, so as not to be ungrateful?" "No," replies Argenio, "the noble virgin who bows to the will of parents and country, and in whom even unfaithfulness becomes a virtue, shall not be called untrue."

For the rest of the act, the characters engage in similar arguments for and against Rosmene's marriage to Imeneo or Tirinto, and she grows even more confused and tormented. Argenio declares that Rosmene will have to make up her own mind about who to marry. The chorus, however, says that Cupid will make the decision. In fact, they hint, he already has.

ACT 3:

All five characters sit down for dinner, around a big table, and the recitative that opens the act takes the form of a halting conversation, with long, awkward silences.

Rosmene says that, "Gratitude and love are two tyrants who will do me to death." Imeneo and Tirinto both claim they will die if they cannot have her. Clomiri is in love with Imeneo but knows that her love isn't returned, so she's just hoping to see him happy, no matter what the outcome.

Rosmene feels the choice she's facing is unfair, and hits upon an ingenious idea. She'll pretend to be crazy, to throw everybody off guard. The response to her feigned madness, she thinks, will make everything clear.

Rosmene moves woodenly around the room, eyes glazed, and saying outlandish things. At one point, after chugging her own glass of wine, she also grabs Imeneo's wine, and slugs that down for good measure. Grabbing a dinner roll, she winds up and flings it at Clomiri, hitting her squarely in the nose. She rips open her bodice and when the men are embarrassed, she climbs onto the table to look them both straight in the eye.

Finally, Rosmene makes her decision. Her delusion, she says, has enabled her to choose wisely. She picks duty over passion, and gratitude over fidelity — and thus, Imeneo over Tirinto. The chorus winds up the proceedings, singing that it's always best for reason to trump desire, but that's no solace to Tirinto and Clomiri, who are both left to cry over lost love.

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