Rinaldo, Opera by G. F. Handel
In 1710, George Frideric Handel had just moved to London and was frantically working on his very first opera commission in England. The German-born, soon-to-be English star composer had a series of strong showings in Italy and Germany, but it was crucial to establish his dominance in this new territory. He needed an epic subject, and Torquato Tasso’s influential poem Jerusalem Delivered was just that. With a libretto by Giacomo Rossi, Handel crafted Rinaldo, a formidable Italian opera that premiered at the Queen’s Theatre on 24 February 1711. From London’s Haymarket, the work spread throughout Europe and became one of the exemplary achievements of Baroque musical theatre. Gran Tetro La Fenice in Venice delivers a faithful remake.
The success of Rinaldo made Handel a household name in England and secured his lasting success there. More importantly, the work is an excellent blueprint for the lesser known but important genre of Baroque opera. Handel took many compositional liberties with his score and pushed the boundaries of musical convention at the time. The orchestra received as much regard as the protagonists on stage, with surprisingly effective instrumental solos and bold crescendos grabbing the audience’s attention. Rinaldo thus shines not only with its captivating story but also with its composer’s musical imagination.
The story unfolds at the time of the First Crusade to Jerusalem. Rinaldo is a brave Crusader who, along with his beloved Almirena, must confront Argante, King of the Saracens, and Armida, Queen of Damascus and powerful sorceress. Among dragons that rain down hell fire and flying chariots, the two protagonists’ journey and Handel’s intense score take Rinaldo to new dramatic heights. The new production at La Fenice does the famed original justice and has audience on the edge of their seats.