Everything you need to know about Handel's Rinaldo, which is available to watch online for free as part of Glyndebourne Open House on Sunday 21 June.
In this instalment of our Introducing series we explore Robert Carson’s witty production.
Rinaldo is part of Glyndebourne Open House – a weekly series of free operas, available on YouTube.
A brief introduction:
Rinaldo was Handel’s first opera for the London stage, and it’s no coincidence that it was also the most popular during his lifetime. Composed especially with English tastes in mind, the opera is a work of spectacle and sensation filled with ‘thunder, lightning, illuminations and fireworks’.
Crusader knight Rinaldo loves Almirena, but she has been kidnapped by sorceress Armida, who is in league with Rinaldo’s enemy Argante. Vowing to rescue her and defeat the Saracen enemy, the knight heads into battle, ready to risk all for the woman he loves. Will he prevail? With some magic and a little help from his friends, he just might.
Handel’s score more than matches the exotic, Crusader-inspired plot for thrills, bringing together many of the young composer’s greatest hits in a glittering musical collage that gives its audience everything from heart-breaking arias and heart-stopping virtuoso numbers to thrilling brass fanfares and rich, emotive string writing.
Why not to miss it:
Robert Carsen’s ‘ingenious, witty, joyous and completely over-the-top’ production takes Handel’s Crusader opera and transforms it into the wild, fantastical imaginings of a schoolboy. Schoolrooms become battlefields, schoolmasters the Saracen enemy, and a spotty schoolboy swaps his uniform for armour, wins the day and gets the girl. It’s St Trinians meets Harry Potter – a riotous romp of a show which, according to critics, ‘lets the magic and silliness of the plot take wing with glorious preposterousness’, while its music ‘ravishes the heart’.
Rinaldo sits alongside David McVicar’s Giulio Cesare and Barrie Kosky’s Saul as one of Glyndebourne’s great Handel stagings – a classic opera given stylish new life and a bright new twinkle in its eye thanks to Carsen’s invention and designer Gideon Davey’s bold sets and costumes. It’s a playful, irrepressible frame that provides the perfect foil for one of Handel’s most beautiful scores, which includes the much-loved aria ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’, as well as the thrilling coloratura showpiece ‘Venti turbini’.
A great moment to look out for:
If you’re looking for a high point – stratospheric, really – in Robert Carsen’s Rinaldo, how does a flying bicycle sound? You won’t have to wait too long for this spectacular, ET-inspired moment, which falls just at the end of Act I.
Rinaldo’s beloved Almirena has been kidnapped by the sorceress Armida. Vowing to rescue her, schoolboy-warrior Rinaldo gathers together his troops – boys whose uniform now comes equipped with breastplates and helmets, with bicycles taking the place of valiant steeds.
To the explosive accompaniment of Rinaldo’s coloratura aria ‘Venti turbini’, in which he summons storms and winds to propel him into battle, the soldiers mount their ‘horses’ and ride solemnly off to fight. But Rinaldo himself has the last word when his bicycle takes flight, silhouetted in front of the moon while the hero sings his exuberantly ornamented da capo, before disappearing triumphantly off into the sky.
Cast and Creative team:
Robert Carsen’s light-hearted, fast-paced Rinaldo is conducted ‘with great panache’ by baroque specialist Ottavio Dantone, who draws ‘scintillating playing’ from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Fearless Italian contralto Sonia Prina dazzles in the title role of the warrior Rinaldo, a ‘star turn’ full of ‘phenomenal coloratura’, ‘heart-wrenching’ in her great aria ‘Cara Sposa’. She goes up against scheming, sexually-charged sorceress Armida (‘sparkling and elegant’ in the hands of American soprano Brenda Rae) and baritone Luca Pisaroni ‘at the top of his game’ as the Saracen king Argante.
Over in the rival camp, soprano Anett Fritsch is ‘true and touching’ as Rinaldo’s beloved Almirena, with countertenor Tim Mead (Eustazio) and Varduhi Abrahamyan (Goffredo) as Rinaldo’s loyal comrades.