Libretto by Giacomo Rossi from
an outline by Aaron Hill
Conductor: Harry Bicket
Director: Francisco Negrin
Choreographer: Ana Yepes
In a new production
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Melodious Baroque opera filled with glorious bel canto
George Frederic Handel’s (1685-1759) first Italian opera composed for the London stage, Rinaldo, in 1711, was a spectacle that introduced Londoners to the joy of Italian baroque opera with its wonderful melodies and rich bel canto singing. The longer I’m exposed to the joys of opera, the more I admire the Baroque style opera with their exquisite singing that allows the performers to demonstrate their craft upon the melodious scores. After seeing Rinaldo, I’d add it to my list of “must see” operas. The audience at the performance I attended, either left at the first intermission or loudly cheered throughout – most stayed. Baroque opera is an acquired taste it seems.
Rinaldo, ironically, is about the First Crusade pitting the Christian against the Muslims, yet director Francisco Negrin and set designer Louis Desire chose a vividly colorful post-Modern design in the new production debuting at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This stunning set, complete with a large harpsichord dangling from above, gives the fantasy element of Handel’s tuneful work an eerie feel. The battle for Jerusalem becomes a journey of quest as the warrior Rinaldo (the marvelous countertenor David Daniels) seeks to find and free his lover, Almirena (Jukia Kleiter) from the grips of the evil queen from hell, Armida (marvelously sung and comically performed by soprano Elza Van Den Heever). This good verses evil fantasy features vocal dexterity and skill as the countertenors prevail in one of the most melodious opera’s ever.
Handel’s score contains the memorable arias such as the haunting “Lascia ch’io pianga” (sung with deep emotions by Julia Kleiter’s Almirena; Rinadlo’s triumphant four trumpet and timpani “Or la tromba” (my favorite piece from the opera); and, “Vinti Turbini’ from Rinaldo. The colorfulness and glorious toe-tapping melodies that sing so smoothly give Rinaldo a richness seldom found in later operas. The harpsichord infused score features a comic scene that has Armida battling on the over-sized harpsichord (originally played in the pit by Handel himself now played by Jory Vinikour also in the pit) in “Vo’ far Guerra. ” Elza Van Den Heever show her comic chops in that scene.
The glory of the da capo arias upon the outstanding vocals by this stellar cast make Handel’s seldom performed Baroque opera a special treat. I can’t remember enjoying a finer night at the opera than I experienced with Rinaldo! You’ll not find a finer sung opera than Rinaldo, don’t miss it.
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For more info checkout the Rinaldo page at theatreinchicago.com