In 2011 Glyndebourne celebrates the genius of Handel with its ﬁrst staging of Rinaldo, the work with which he made his sensational London debut – and the ﬁrst Italian opera speciﬁcally created for the British stage.
Loosely based on Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate – a wildly fantastical ﬁctionalisation of the Christian ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem during the First Crusade – the opera draws on a love story between the knight Rinaldo and the beauty Almirena. Separated from Almirena by powerful spirits, Rinaldo goes into battle to claim back his love and conquer the city.
Handel’s spectacular tale of love, honour and righteousness is directed by Robert Carsen, familiar to Tour audiences from last year’s acclaimed production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. Rinaldo’s richly enticing score is conducted by Laurence Cummings, one of Britain’s foremost early music specialists.
Winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Prize in 2006, British soprano Elizabeth Watts makes her Glyndebourne debut as Almirena. She performs opposite Christophe Dumaux in the title role, whom audiences may remember from his sensational debut as Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare (2005 Festival).
A new production from the 2011 Festival
Sung in Italian with English supertitles.
Listen to the 2011 Festival Rinaldo podcast (14 mins)
Director Robert Carsen and Dramaturg Ian Burton talk to James Whitbourn about Handel's Rinaldo.
The performance lasts approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes including two intervals of 20 minutes.
Setting: Outside Jerusalem, during the First Crusade (1096-9)
Goffredo (the historical Godfrey of Bouillon and leader of the Christian forces) sits on a throne within sight of Jerusalem, urging the knight Rinaldo and his followers on to final victory. Rinaldo shares his enthusiasm and also looks forward to his union with Goffredo’s daughter, Almirena. Goffredo warns Rinaldo not to be sidetracked.
Argante, the Saracen King of Jerusalem, comes to parlay with Goffredo, asking for a three-day truce. Goffredo agrees. Left alone, Argante admits that his lover Armida has gone to read the omens of the conflict’s outcome.
Armida now arrives. Dark forces have told her that hope lies only in the Crusader’s loss of Rinaldo’s support, which she intends to engineer herself.
At a pleasant nearby spot, Almirena and Rinaldo reaffirm their love. Suddenly the armed Armida enters and spirits Almirena away.
Goffredo and his brother Eustazio find Rinaldo in despair. He describes how Almirena has been seized by an Amazon surrounded by her infernal host. Eustazio suggests that they visit a wise old man in the vicinity to seek advice. Buoyed up by this suggestion, Rinaldo follows them.
Near a calm sea, the three Christian knights are travelling to the old man’s cave. Accompanied by two sirens, a woman lures Rinaldo on board her vessel with the promise of Almirena, the others unsuccessfully trying to hold him back. The boat vanishes, with Goffredo and Eustazio left dismayed.
The scene changes to a delightful garden, where Almirena is guarded by Argante, who is in love with her and promises to help her escape. They leave and Armida enters.
She summons her spirits to bring to her Rinaldo, now entirely in her power. As he demands Almirena’s return, Armida senses deep feelings for him and offers him her love. He scorns her until she transforms herself into Almirena, when he embraces her. Instantly she resumes Armida’s form, and he turns away. Fearing Hell’s enchantments, he flees.
Left alone, Armida is torn between her desire for Rinaldo and her fury at his resistance. As she transforms herself once more into Almirena, Argante appears and Armida is further enraged to discover that her former lover has also fallen for Almirena’s charms. Embarrassed, he goes off, while she summons the gods to help avenge her wrongs.
Contemplating the mountain crowned by Armida’s magic castle, Goffredo and Eustazio call upon the Christian sorcerer living at its foot. He warns them that swords will not suffice to rescue Rinaldo and Almirena. As they attempt to climb it they are attacked by monsters and driven back. The magician gives them wands to defeat the monsters, and at their second attempt they reach the castle walls, which disappear when touched by the wands. They move forward into Armida’s realm.
Inside, meanwhile, Armida is on the point of stabbing Almirena. Rinaldo’s pleas fall on deaf ears, and he attacks Armida himself only to be restrained by spirits. Goffredo and Eustazio’s arrival with their magic wands turns the castle into a desert. When Rinaldo once again attacks Armida, poised to strike Almirena, she disappears. The four are reunited, Goffredo expressing his relief and Rinaldo and Almirena their love.
Still suspicious of each other’s temporary emotional attachments, Armida and Argante prepare for battle against the Christian forces. Rinaldo leads the latter, who are victorious.
Rinaldo brings Argante in shackles to Goffredo and Eustazio leads in the captured Armida. She breaks her wand and announces her conversion to Christianity. Argante offers her his hand. All celebrate the triumph of virtue over malice.
© George Hall
Conductor Laurence Cummings
Director Robert Carsen
Revival Director Bruno Ravella
Designer Gidion Davey
Lighting Design Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet
Movement Director Philippe Giraudeau
Dramaturg Ian Burton
Rinaldo Christophe Dumaux
Goffredo Louise Poole
Eustazio Christopher Ainslie
Almirena Elizabeth Watts
Armida Ana Maria Labin
Argante Joshua Hopkins
A Christian Magician William Towers