Georg Frideric Handel: Rinaldo [Les Arts Florissants/Christie] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
- List Price: $29.99
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When Georg Frideric Handel left the continent for England, he not only anglicized his name but created some of his most memorable vocal works, including The Messiah and numerous operas. Rinaldo, a 1711 composition, was the first Italian opera written for the London theater and is based on Tasso’s epic, “Jerusalem Delivered.”
Rinaldo (contralto Sonia Prina) is a favored knight of Goffredo (mezzosoprano Varduhi Abrahamyan), leader of the Crusader army that is laying siege to Jerusalem, held by the Saracen king, Argante (bass Luca Pisaroni). Rinaldo is betrothed to Almirena (soprano Anett Fritsch), Goffredo’s niece. However, Argante plots with his lover, the sorceress Armida (soprano Brenda Rae), to defeat the Crusaders by rendering Rinaldo helpless. To this end, Armida has Almirena abducted. Rinaldo, in search of his beloved, is captured as well. Armida begins to fall in love with Rinaldo. Goffredo and his brother Eustazio (Almirena’s father played by countertenor Tim Mead), find a Christian magician (tenor William Towers) who gives them the power to defeat Armida. The group arrives in time to prevent Almirena’s excecution and reunites her with Rinaldo. Eventually the Crusaders battle against the Saracens, defeating Argante and Armida who are pardoned in a show of reconciliation,.
This production comes from 2011 Glyndebourne performances directed by Robert Carsen who delivers an idiosyncratic staging, to say the least. Baroque specialist Ottavio Dantone leadsThe Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The video and audio properties of Rinaldo are absolutely superb.
Carsen’s concept of Rinaldo is that of a schoolboy’s fantasy, complete with boarding school uniforms in a classroom with an ever-changing blackboard. Odd as this may seem, it actually works, aided by some very special stage effects such as knights on bicycles (!), a soccer game and many clever costume changes. Do not miss Armida in a sexy rubber body suit, surrounded by naughty schoolgirls. Videography is splendid and there are many gorgeous closeups.
The Glyndebourne Festival opera house has a fabulous acoustic and you get to hear many details in the pit that would be glossed over elsewhere. The voices are well balanced and the singers take every advantage of the sympathetic hand of maestro Dantone.
Besides the usual trailers, there are two featurettes: director Carsen’s concept of the staging and maestro Dantone’s grasp of the score. I would recommend that prospective viewers see these first as they will be very useful for understanding the revisionist concept of this opera.
The Definitive Word
While Rinaldo came early in Handel’s operatic career, it is a mature work in all regards. If you ask singers to select their favorite composers for the voice, Handel’s name invariably comes up, and, after hearing Rinaldo, you can understand why. There are so many opportunities for virtuosic performance that it is almost an embarrassment of riches. Fortunately, Glyndebourne has assembled a superb cast of Baroque specialists in the principal roles with special kudos to the female leads and bass Pisaroni. Director Carsen’s conceptualization of this classic legend as a schoolboy’s dream was a bold move, and one that I was dreading, but by opera’s conclusion, I felt that it really works. The numerous lighthearted moments in this opera might not have been Handel’s intent, but they do enhance the proceedings. Coupled with outstanding work in the pit and a recording team par excellence, I share the hearty reception given by the lucky Glyndebourne audience in attendance. Highly recommended.
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