Even with the rise in popularity of Il pastor fido, Gerusalemme liberata was still used for seventeenth-century madrigals. Additionally, with the development of opera, Tasso’s poem became a perpetual source for librettos. As with the madrigals, though, the prevailing paradigm remains in the selection from the romance narratives over the entire epic. In Carlo Pallavicino’s La Gerusalemme Liberata of 1687, for example, the librettist gives Armida the last word of the epic, when it should be Godfrey. Furthermore when the opera went to Germany, the title was transformed from La Gerusalemme liberata to Armida. Due to the requirements of courtly society discussed above, librettists and composers chose these plots because they allowed for spectacles in both staging and musical effects. We can think for example of Handel’s Rinaldo, where Armida no longer enter with horses but with dragons and she casts spells and mixes potions, an action justified by her Eastern “otherness.” Not only were these romance narratives ripe for spectacular scenic and orchestral effects, they also added a human quality to such a grandiose subject as the Crusades. Lully’s characterization of Armida moves through various emotional states as her hatred of Rinaldo transforms into love. Where hatred gives way to love, then seduction give way to lamentations when Rinaldo departs from Armida’s pleasure garden.
Operatic interpretations of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata were not that different from the early settings of Monteverdi and Wert—exploiting the poet’s spectacular imagery and colorful language for musical effects. Composers could now justify their musical extravagance on grounds of characterization in the case of Armida and Tancredi. Their exoticism or sorcery calls for a musical setting that moved beyond the conventional and mundane. Yet stripping away such supernatural powers, Tasso’s romance narratives also provided composers with the necessary language to portray and evoke the most profound emotions of the human condition.