Rossini composed "Armida" on his return to the rebuilt Teatro San Carlo, Naples, after premiering his "La gazza ladra" at La Scala on May 31st 1817. The impresario of the theater was keen for a work of musical individuality, one breaking away from the prevailing conventions; above all he wanted an opera utilising the new facilities of the refurbished theatre in terms of scenic effect and dance (Rossini obliged by producing a fourteen-minute ballet as the centerpiece of the second act; while the libretto called for lavish staging, including Armidas palace and enchanted garden; added complications are presented in the requirement of six tenors (albeit with the prospect of doubling)). In fact, the maestro produced, in the process, his most romantic opera to date in terms of the spirit and opulence of the music which includes three extended love duets for the sorceress and the crusader. Despite the spectacle of the production, the opera was only moderately well received. The contemporary critical opinion was that the music was "too German" (and, in fact, it was in Germany where the opera was received best). And, indeed, the work, for all its' splendor, presents a rather uneven work: while it is undeniable that Rossini created several outstanding pieces (including Armida's two arias and her first duet with Rinaldo (which has been posted earlier, along with its' variation which formed the lieto finale of "Otello":
An interesting moment occurs in the last act where Ubaldo and Carlo confront Rinaldo. As it was already mentioned, the cast includes six tenor roles (with the possibility of casting Carlo and Goffredo and Gernardo and Ubaldo with the same two tenors), thus, the terzet that represents our particular dramatical conflict is sung by three tenors, providing quite an unusual vocal combination (rarely, if ever, seen in music). The piece itself seems traditional, representing a succession of andante - tempo di mezzo - stretta. The andante, wonderfully pensive in melody, provides an opportunity for all tenors to receive a separate entrance, while his predecessors are brought into the background. The dramatical tempo di mezzo that follows is arrestingly life-like, affirming fully Rinaldo's conflicted feelings. The stretta is an excited affair for all present, demanding tenors to exchange numerous high Cs (and, in this case, ending with a sustained high C from all three singers). An unusual feature is the fact that it is Rinaldo who sings both halves of the stretta alone, while his comrades only enter in the transitional section and the final coda.
There have been at least three other versions of the terzet posted here, on YouTube, but this one, hailing from one of the first recordings of work (under Scimone), is a quite stunning version, involving three excellent tenors: Chris Merritt (Rinaldo), Bruce Ford (Ubaldo) & William Matteuzzi (Carlo).