Synopsis: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

from Claudio Monteverdi

The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland

Human Frailty recognizes its subservience to the power of Time, Fortune and Love.

In the palace of Ulysses (Ulisse) on the island of Ithaca, Penelope, Ulysses' wife, awaits
his return from the Trojan wars, lamenting his absence to her nurse Eurycleia. Two lovers, Melantho (Melanto) and Eurymachus (Eurimaco), extol the joys of love. Ulysses is returned to Ithaca by Phaeacian sailors, whose ship turns to stone as soon as he disembarks; Ulysses wakens on the beach and is greeted by the goddess Minerva, disguised as a shepherd, who tells him that he has arrived home. He bathes in a sacred fountain and emerges as an old beggar in order to deceive his wife's suitors. Eumaeus (Eumete), a faithful swineherd, greets the disguised Ulysses, who tells him of his master's imminent return.

Eumaeus welcomes Ulysses' son Telemachus (Telemaco), who has returned with the help of Minerva, and introduces the boy to the old beggar. A ray of light reveals the beggar's true identity, and father and son are reunited.
At the palace Penelope is seen resisting the advances of the suitors, who are unnerved to hear of Telemachus's return. Minerva offers Ulysses a plan for removing the suitors while Telemachus tells his mother of his recent travels.
Ulysses appears, disguised once more as the old beggar, and is taunted by one of the suitors. After a fight, Penelope insists that Ulysses be welcomed and proclaims that she will marry whomever is able to string her husband's great bow. The suitors fail, leaving Ulysses to prepare the weapon, which he turns upon them.

Despite the massacre of the suitors, Penelope is not convinced that the old beggar is in fact her husband, and not even Telemachus can persuade her of the truth.
Minerva and Juno plead with Jove on Ulysses' behalf and, after various proofs are given by Eurycleia and Ulysses, Penelope and her husband are reunited.