Premiered: February 24, 1711 - Queen's Theatre, London
Other Popular Opera Synopses:
Wagner's Tannhauser, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Verdi's Rigoletto, & Puccini's Madama Butterfly
Setting of Rinaldo:
Handel's Rinaldo takes place in the late 11th century Jerusalem during the first crusades.
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- Rinaldo is regarded by critics as one of Handel's greatest operas. Of its individual numbers, the soprano aria 'Lascia ch'io pianga' has become a particular favourite, and is a popular concert piece. Handel went on to dominate opera in England for several decades.
- Pottering with Handel GF Handel: Rinaldo, Glyndebourne, 17 July 2011. What have Alan Bennett’s History Boys, St Trinian’s schoolgirls and Harry Potter got to do with one of the masterpieces of eighteenth century opera? According to Robert Carsen, director of this year’s Glyndebourne Handel production, Rinaldo, the introduction of these characters is a legitimate attempt to revive for a.
Operapedia: Rinaldo Henry Stewart fights for Handel’s Crusades epic, Rinaldo. But it wasn’t even written for Rinaldo! Handel had used the melody twice before — as a saraband. An act of creation becomes one of destruction when fornicating parents played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are too preoccupied with carnal. Il 'Rinaldo' di Handel, 1711. Speranza Rinaldo. George Frideric Handel. The affair between Argante and Armida is Hill's creation, as are the conversions to Christianity, the latter. Lang believes that in spite of the borrowings, and the hasty manner in which the work was put together, Rinaldo is one of Handel's great operas. Rinaldo at Glyndebourne: If only all history lessons were this much fun!
The Story of Rinaldo
Rinaldo, ACT 1
With the Saracen King Argante and his troops confined within the walls of Jerusalem, Goffredo and his army of Crusaders are able to lay siege to the city. Goffredo brought his brother Eustazio, his daughter Almirena, and the knight Rinaldo with him to Jerusalem. Feeling that victory is imminent, Goffredo begins celebrating and Rinaldo proposes to the love of his life, Almirena. Goffredo agrees to give away his daughter once the city has officially fallen. Almirena is overjoyed with the thought of marrying Rinaldo and cannot wait for the ceremony to take place. She persuades Rinaldo into fighting even harder to ensure a quick victory. After Almirena leaves, a messenger announces the arrival of King Argante. Before he enters, Eustazio thinks the king is about to admit defeat. When the king makes his entrance, he strikes a deal with Goffredo to enact a three-day truce. After Goffredo leaves, Argante considers asking for help from the sorceress Armida who is the Queen of Damascus, and whom he loves.
As he thinks about her, she arrives on a chariot made of fire. She tells him that he can win this war, but the only way this is possible is if he kills Rinaldo, which she says he has the power to do.
Within the garden among the birds, fountains, and beautiful flowers, Rinaldo and Almirena are enjoying each others company. Suddenly, Armida appears and abducts Almirena. Rinaldo quickly draws his sword to protect his love, but before he can fight, Armida and his lover vanish in a dark cloud of smoke. Rinaldo is nearly inconsolable. Goffredo and Eustazio rush into the garden to see what is wrong. They find a weeping Rinaldo who tells them what happened. The two men suggest he see a Christian magician who might possess the power to save Almirena. After agreeing to visit the magician, Rinaldo prays for strength.
Rinaldo, ACT 2
Goffredo, Eustazio, and Rinaldo set out to find the magician. As they approach the magician's lair near the sea shore, a beautiful woman calls out to the men from her boat. She promises them that she can take them to Almirena. Rinaldo is unsure about her promise but frantic to find his love, he starts running into the water as two nearby mermaids sing of love's delight. Goffredo and Eustazio try holding him back, but Rinaldo overpowers them and heads out to the boat. Once on board, the boat immediately sails off into the distance. Goffredo and Eustazio are angry and feel Rinaldo has abandoned their mission.
Back at Armida's palace, Almirena is distraught. Agrante finds Almirena in the garden and consoles her. Captivated by her beauty, he immediately falls in love with her. He tells her that he will prove it to her by securing her freedom despite incurring Armida's fury. At the same time, the siren in the boat brings Rinaldo in front of Armida. Rinaldo immediately demands her to set Almirena free. Armida is moved by Rinaldo's passion and falls in love with him. When Armida confesses her love for him, Rinaldo angrily rejects her. Armida transforms herself into Almirena out of Rinaldo's site, and when confronted by her, he suspects something isn't right and leaves. Armida returns to her own self, and though very upset by his rejection, she still has feelings for him. She decides to transform herself into Almirena again to try and win over Rinaldo. After taking on Almirena's looks, Armida crosses paths with Argante. Believing her to be the real Almirena, he reiterates his love for her and his promise to gain her freedom.
Armida immediately changes her appearance back to normal and vows vengeance. Argante stands by his convictions and tells her he no longer needs her help. Armida leaves in a fit of rage.
Rinaldo, ACT 3
Within the magician's cavern, Goffredo and Eustazio learn that Armida is holding Almirena captive in her palace atop the mountain. Before the magician can tell them that they will need a special power to defeat the Queen, the two men quickly set off to climb the mountain. As they make their way up to her palace, they are met by fierce beasts who drive them back down the mountain. Goffredo and Eustazio go back to the magician's cave and receive magic wands that can overcome the Queen's powers. As they climb the mountain again, they are able to beat the monsters, but when they reach the palace gates, the palace disappears into thin air. Astonished by the sight, the men are unsure of what to do. Below them, a raging sea violently crashes its waves against the rocks. The men decide to continue climbing.
Armida, surrounded by a shield of spirits, is prepped and ready to kill Almirena. Rinaldo dashes into the garden to save his love. He swings his sword at Armida, but the spirits surrounding her come to her aid. Goffredo and Eustazio break into the garden. When their wands touch the garden walls, the garden immediately disappears. Everyone is left on an empty field with Jerusalem visible on the horizon. Armida tries to kill Almirena again, but Rinaldo is able to thwart her attack by striking her with his sword. Armida vanishes leaving Goffredo, Eustazio, Almirena, and Rinaldo alone to celebrate their reunion. With Jerusalem in the distance, Goffredo declares his next attack on the city will commence the following day.
Armida and Argante reconcile in the city, knowing that it will be under attack soon. After they prepare their troops, Goffredo's army marches into the city, and once the battle is over Goffredo's forces are victorious. Rinaldo captures Argante, while Eustazio captures Armida. Reunited in victory, Rinaldo and Almirena are joyous about their upcoming marriage. Armida realizes her defeat and breaks her wand, the source of her power. She and Argante accept Christianity, and Goffredo is quick to forgive them. Soon, everyone joins together in celebration of peace.
Chalk and talk is dead. Teachers scramble to bring history to life in classrooms up and down the country through dressing-up days and interactive whiteboard activities. Few, however, can equal Robert Carsen’s efforts in his riotous production of Handel’s Rinaldo, here on its first revival since its 2011 première. Our hero is a schoolboy, bullied and humiliated by his classmates. During a history exam on the motivation for the Crusades, Rinaldo shuffles to the teacher’s desk to sharpen his pencil – a classic avoidance tactic – and slips into a reverie where he is a brave knight leading the Christians. His brutal teachers become the Saracen King of Jerusalem, Argante, and the Queen of Damascus, the sorceress Armida. Her furies are a rebellious gang of teenage girls straight from St Trinian’s, flashing lacrosse sticks and scimitars with equal aplomb.
Rinaldo was Handel’s first opera written for London, composed to Aaron Hill’s scenario, based on Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, given its first performance at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, in 1711. It was arguably his greatest success in this country, containing a string of show-stopping arias the public lapped up, despite the fact that only a third of the numbers were newly composed.
Historical fact is embroidered with fiction as Godfrey of Bouillon (Goffredo) leads the First Crusade. His daughter, Almirena, is the object of desire for his lieutenant, Rinaldo. Almirena is kidnapped by Armida to ensure Rinaldo is distracted from the campaign. Her scheme goes awry when Argante falls for Almirena (allowing her to flee) and then when Armida herself becomes infatuated with Rinaldo. A melting pot of politics, religion and love, should Rinaldo be presented as a vehicle for comedy?
For the most part, it works wonderfully. Carsen’s creation is quite brilliantly realised, revived here by Bruno Ravella. Christians and Muslims are delineated by costume but also – in the opening scenes – by arranging desks into cross and crescent formations. Visual gags flood the stage: from the chalkboard boat which circles a magic island (turning upside down) to the E.T. reference as Rinaldo’s bicycle-steed becomes airborne before a giant moon during “Venti, turbini”. The final battle between Christians and Muslims is decided by a wittily choreographed game of playground football. Just when you wonder if Carsen hasn’t wandered too far down the comic road, we’re confronted with moments of emotional truth, such as Rinaldo’s “Cara sposa”, his lament for the abducted Almirena, played out with the greatest simplicity.
Ottavio Dantone ensured scintillating playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a pretty full account of the score (only three arias are given the chop). He injected Italian passion into the playing; highlights included a trilling sopranino recorder in Almirena’s charming “Augelletti, che cantata”, stormy string playing in Armida’s “Furie terribili” and the terrifically athletic bassoon twists and turns to match Iestyn Davies’ Rinaldo in “Venti, turbini”.
It was a case of swings and roundabouts in terms of cast changes from last time round. Four countertenors now lead the charge – an unusual situation in a Baroque opera where all the male characters are sung by men! This is undoubtedly Iestyn Davies’s show; his Rinaldo was a gem of a performance, characterised by fiery coloratura, warm, strongly projected tone, yet showing ability to spin long lines. He acts the role splendidly, the little fist punch when Almirena takes his hand portraying teenage insecurities perfectly.
Stepping up from Eustazio to the role of Goffredo, Tim Mead demonstrated a very different countertenor timbre to Davies, lighter, softer, caressing the vocal line in “Sorgi nel petto” with especially fine phrasing. Against these, Anthony Roth Costanzo’s Eustazio fared less well; his nasal tone gleams at the top of his range, but his lower notes sounded strangely disconnected.
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Almirena has limited opportunities to impress, especially when her entrance is delayed until the sixth scene, but Christina Landshamer’s bespectacled, plaited schoolgirl enchanted. “Lascia ch’io pianga” (adapted from two earlier incarnations by Handel) found her poised and affecting. James Laing entertained as the Magus, here a dotty science teacher, even if he was upstaged by Rinaldo’s knights going under cover as jolly hockey sticks schoolgirls.
From the tentative spanking administered to Rinaldo during the Overture, Karina Gauvin didn’t seem entirely at ease as the schoolmistress-dominatrix Armida. Clad in black leather, rather than the black rubber sported by Brenda Rae last time, Gauvin was out of vocal sorts at times. Her coloratura blustered in “Vo’ far Guerra”, requiring greater vocal and dramatic brilliance; Dantone and the OAE got her out a scrape at one point. Joshua Hopkins impressed as Argante, his firm baritone negotiating some fiendish writing, especially in his entrance aria “Sibilar gli angui” whilst able to sing with beauty of tone when required.
Carsen’s take on the Crusades shouldn’t be missed. If only all history lessons were such fun!See full listing