Following on from productions of Theodora, Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare, Glyndebourne continues to celebrate 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 liberata – an already wildly fantastical fictionalisation of the Christian ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem during the First Crusade – Rinaldo was consciously intended to marry the new style of aria-led Italian opera seria with the spectacular scenic effects favoured by such native English ‘semi-operas’ as Purcell’s The Fairy Queen. As a result, Rinaldo not only boasts one of Handel’s most richly enticing scores but is also, as the Spectator put it after the premiere in 1711, ‘filled with Thunder and Lightning, Illuminations, and Fireworks’.
Directed by Robert Carsen, who made his Festival debut with L’incoronazione di Poppea in 2008, Rinaldo is conducted by Ottavio Dantone, Music Director of the acclaimed Italian period ensemble Accademia Bizantina. The cast is headed by Sonia Prina in the title-role of the heroic crusader, with Sandrine Piau as his beloved Almirena, Brenda Rae as the seductive Saracen sorceress Armida, and Luca Pisaroni (last summer’s Leporello) as her duplicitous ally Argante, the King of Jerusalem.
A new production for the 2011 Festival.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles.
This new production is generously supported by Carol and Paul Collins, through Glyndebourne Association America Inc.
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-Edition, Kassel and Faber Music Ltd, London
Setting: During the first Crusade
Goffredo, helped by his brother 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, general of the enemy Saracen army. Argante requests a three-day truce, to which Goffredo assents. Alone, Argante waits for his lover Armida, the powerful sorceress and Saracen Queen. She appears and informs Argante that their 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 will be able to help them. Rinaldo leads them all in their mission to rescue Almirena.
Short interval of 25 minutes
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, mistaking the transformed Armida for Almirena, repeats his earlier declarations of love. Armida, outraged by his infidelity, vows vengeance and departs in fury.
Dinner interval of approximately 85 minutes
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 finally 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
Designer Gideon Davey
Lighting designer Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet
Movement director Philippe Giraudeau
Dramaturg Ian Burton
Rinaldo Sonia Prina
Goffredo Varduhi Abrahamyan
Eustazio Tim Mead
Almirena Anett Fritsch / Miriam Khalil (9 July)
Armida Brenda Rae
Argante Luca Pisaroni / Riccardo Novaro (17 and 21 July)
A Christian Magician William Towers