In 1711, the 26-year-old Handel was commissioned to write an Italian opera for the Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket. Rinaldo, the ﬁrst Italian-language opera written especially for the London stage, is arguably as English as it is Italian. Designed to fuse the virtuosity of Italian singing with the extravagance of the 17th-century English masque, Rinaldo displays the inﬂ uence of British semi-operas like Purcell’s King Arthur and plays including Dryden’s Amphitryon.
‘Glyndebourne’s reputation as a Handel house receives a boost with Robert Carsen’s new production of Rinaldo,’ wrote The Sunday Telegraph of this show’s premiere in 2011. Handel’s tale of love, war and redemption during the First Crusade, loosely based on Torquato Tasso’s popular 16th-century epic poem Gerusalemme liberata, here becomes a madcap fantasy set in a British boarding school, a backdrop that deftly underlines the piece’s inherent Englishness.
The cast for this revival boasts four leading countertenors. Iestyn Davies, last seen at Glyndebourne in L’incoronazione di Poppea in 2008, returns in the title role. Tim Mead, Eustazio in 2011, now portrays Goﬀredo. American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo debuts as Eustazio, with James Laing as the Magician.
Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, debuting as Armida, and Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro in Festival 2013, returning as Argante, complete a cast of accomplished Baroque virtuosi. Ottavio Dantone returns to conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment ‘in a thrillingly zingy reading of the score,’ according to The Times (2011).
A revival of the 2011 Festival production
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Support by Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson
Listen to the Rinaldo podcast (14 mins)
Director Robert Carsen and Dramaturg Ian Burton talk to James Whitbourn about Handel's Rinaldo.
Edition by David R. Kimbell by arrangement with Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel and Faber Music Ltd, London
The action is set during the first Crusade.
Goffredo, helped by Eustazio, is leading the Crusader army in its siege of Jerusalem. Goffredo’s daughter Almirena is loved by the knight Rinaldo. Goffredo tells Rinaldo that he may marry his daughter if he is victorious in battle. A herald announces the approach of Argante, the enemy Saracen King. Argante requests a three-day truce, to which Goffredo assents. Alone, Argante waits for his mistress Armida, the powerful sorceress and Queen of Damascus. She appears and informs Argante that the Saracens’ only chance of victory lies in depriving the Christian forces of Rinaldo’s support. She herself is prepared to undertake this task.
Rinaldo and Almirena reaffirm their love. Suddenly, Armida and her forces attack them and abduct Almirena. Goffredo and Eustazio arrive. When the distraught Rinaldo tells them what has happened, Eustazio suggests that the Christian Magus can help them. Rinaldo leads them all in their mission to rescue Almirena.
Near a lake, Goffredo, Eustazio and Rinaldo are struggling to find the Christian Magus, when suddenly a beautiful woman appears in a boat. She promises Rinaldo that she will lead him to Almirena. To his companions’ dismay, Rinaldo impulsively jumps on board, and the boat vanishes.
Almirena is now Armida’s captive. She is guarded by Argante, who confesses that he has fallen in love with her. He promises that he will defy Armida and free Almirena if she returns his love, but she rejects him. Rinaldo, now also a captive, is brought before Armida. He angrily demands that Almirena be set free. Against her will, Armida finds herself falling in love with her enemy. She attempts to seduce him by magically transforming herself into Almirena. Rinaldo, suspecting trickery, rejects her.
Argante now appears and mistakes the transformed Armida for Almirena. He repeats his earlier declarations of love. Armida, outraged by his infidelity, vows vengeance and departs in fury.
Goffredo and Eustazio finally find the Christian Magus, who gives them the magic powers they need to enter Armida’s palace unharmed.
Armida is about to kill Almirena. Rinaldo, still a prisoner, is powerless to prevent her, when suddenly Goffredo and Eustazio come to the captives’ aid. Goffredo, Almirena and Rinaldo rejoice at being reunited. Argante and Armida, now reconciled, prepare their troops. Goffredo’s army also advances, led by Rinaldo, and the battle commences. The Crusaders are victorious. Rinaldo and Almirena celebrate their love, while Armida and Argante accept their defeat. Goffredo forgives the enemy and sets them free, as they all join in a chorus of reconciliation.
Conductor Ottavio Dantone
Director Robert Carsen
Revival Director Bruno Ravella
Designer Gideon Davey
Movement Director Philippe Gireaudeau
Lighting Designers Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet
Rinaldo Iestyn Davies
Goffredo Tim Mead
Eustazio Anthony Roth Costanzo
Almirena Christina Landshamer
Armida Karina Gauvin
Argante Joshua Hopkins
A Christian Magician James Laing
'...I just want to see this marvellous show again - immediately.’
Rated 5* by The Independent
Rated 4* by The Daily Telegraph
‘Back for its second appearance, Robert Carsen’s Glyndebourne Rinaldo is ingenious and witty, joyous and completely over-the-top, and the best possible ending to this year’s summer opera season.’
Rated 5* by The Arts Desk
‘…very witty and supremely well executed.’
Rated 4* by What's on Stage