An exclusive insight into Handel's Rinaldo
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 heartbreaking arias and heart-stopping virtuoso numbers to thrilling brass fanfares and rich, emotive string writing.
Find out more about Rinaldo in this episode of our podcast:
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 Jean-Marie Villegier’s Rodelinda 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’ (which you can watch below), 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 Rinaldo returns for its third Festival revival with an exciting new cast, including plenty of familiar faces. American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong – whose ‘striking’ performance and voice of ‘superb authority’ impressed critics in 2018’s Madama Butterfly – takes the title role, with Kristina Mkhitaryan – ‘compelling both vocally and dramatically’ as Violetta in 2017’s La traviata as seductive sorceress Armida.
Swift-rising young countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is Eustazio, Rinaldo’s right-hand man, and Italian soprano Giulia Semenzato is his beloved Almirena. Both make their Glyndebourne debuts in this production. American bass-baritone Brandon Cedel – a recent winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions – is Saracen king Argante. Baroque specialist Maxim Emelyanychev, harpsichordist and musical director of period ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, conducts.