Handel's Il pastor fido was the composer's second opera for London; the first, Rinaldo, had been a brilliant success, and the audience was taken aback at this second short and understated work staged in 1712. It achieved only a few performances; it was, however, twice revived in 1734 first with added choruses, and then with added dances.
Set in Arcadia, the background to the plot is that Diana, virgin huntress goddess, has become displeased with Arcadia. She has let it be known that only through the marriage of a couple descended from heavenly ancestors, one of whom will be ‘a faithful shepherd,’ will her wrath be appeased; Silvio and Amaryllis are designated the ‘happy couple,’ to everyone’s consternation. The three shepherdesses spend the opera pursuing the objects of their desire. Amaryllis is in love with Mirtillo (who loves her in return) but is destined for Silvio. Eurilla is also in love with Mirtillo (who does not return her love), and tries to undermine Amaryllis. Dorinda in is love with Silvio (who does not return her love until he almost kills her with a spear while hunting).