George Frideric Handel


9 August - 24 August 2014
Festival 2014

See a gallery of production photos on Glyndebourne's Facebook

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.

This production (recorded at the 2011 Festival) is available on DVD from our shop

Edition by David R. Kimbell by arrangement with Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel and Faber Music Ltd, London

The action is set during the first Crusade.

Act I

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.

Act II

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.

Creative team

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

Cast includes

Rinaldo Iestyn Davies
Goffredo Tim Mead
Eustazio Anthony Roth Costanzo
Almirena Christina Landshamer
Armida Karina Gauvin
Argante Joshua Hopkins 
A Christian Magician James Laing

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

'...I just want to see this marvellous show again - immediately.’
Rated 5* by The Independent

‘…consistently charming’
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 


Pure joy....wonderful day....

Crumbs! How spiffing.

What an uplifting delight of an opera! I saw it on 15th August and it was everything I hoped for, and more... The singing was exceptionally good (I must make mention of Argante's understudy - I didn't catch his name - who stepped in at such short notice for his Glyndebourne debut). This production offers a deft interweaving of pathos and bathos; the cast are to be congratulated as much for their athletics and acrobatics, as for their voices! Sheer delight! Do catch it if you can...

The performance on Aug 19th was such a pure joy, both musically and dramatically. The singing was breathtakingly beautiful and the orchestra played flawlessly. The scenes of grief were deeply moving, and that made funny moments stand out even more. I could not have wished anything more and I could not thank you enough. That is how Handel's operas should be performed.

Under 30s night on 12th August was fantastic. Really smartly dressed quiet and attentive audience allowed one to relish the fabulous singing and playing. Iestyn Davies worth the ticket cost alone. The rest no slouches. A very happy anon feeling quite puerile again in this company.

Anon is hurt. I take it wiggle is referring to my use of 'puerile'. However please reflect on the opening scene set in a boys' school classroom. My OED says 'of or like a child'. So there you have it. Descriptive not uncomplimentary .....possibly.

OOOh Anonymous is a bit grown up! Eh????Oh how I crave youth, immaturity, teenage argument and some fun.Which by the way Im not afraid to put a name to.
If you-anonymous have any cojones you will meet me in row c with a large glass of bubbly.

Probably the best music on offer this summer. If you can tolerate the puerile production Glyndebourne's ticket pricing for this makes it a steal.

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