POV's Best of Youtube
Explore some of the sublime music from Handel's opera Rinaldo with these Youtube selections from various productions.
Armida: Act 1 Aria, Furie terribili
The wicked enchantress Armida makes her first entrance in the opera with the spectacular showpiece Furie terribili in which she calls on the furies of hell to surround her.
Unlike the scene in the original libretto, which calls for Armida to sing as she flies through the air, seated on a chariot drawn by two dragons which bellow and pour flames and smoke from their mouths, this production, directed by Robert Carsen for the 2011 Glyndebourne Festival production, sets the opera in a boarding school.
Nevertheless, Brenda Rae's performance is full of fire and fury. Ottavio Dantone conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Almirena: Act 1 Aria, Augelletti, che cantate
This innocuous scene was notorious at the 1711 première of the opera, which saw hundreds of sparrows released in the theatre to lend verisimilitude to Almirena's garden. However, in an article in The Spectator, Joseph Addison expressed his disappointment in discovering that although the birds did indeed fly about, the music itself proceeded from a consort of flagellets and bird-calls which was planted behind the scenes.
Addison also expressed concern about the long-term fallout from these errant flocks of sparrows ...
There have been so many flights of them let loose in this Opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them; and that in other plays, they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's bed-chamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the Inconveniences which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer from them.
The scene itself is enchanting: Almirena in her garden, surrounded by birdsong, awaits her beloved Rinaldo. A charming pastoral orchestral introduction is followed by Almirena's short aria.
Augelletti, che cantate,
Zefiretti che spirate Aure dolci intorno a me,
Il mio ben dite dov'e!
Little birds, as you sing,
gentle breezes, as softly you waft around me,
tell me: where is my beloved?
This music is so delightful that it's worth closing your eyes and taking a few minutes to revel in this audio recording with Miah Persson as Almirena (her singing begins at 3:10). René Jacobs conducts the Freiburger Barockorchester in this 2003 recording.
Rinaldo: Act 1 Aria, Cara Sposa (My dear betrothed)
One of the best known arias in the opera, this is Rinaldo's cry of love and grief for his beloved Almirena who has been abducted by the evil Armida.
Cara sposa, amante cara, Dove sei?
My dear betrothed, my dear love, where are you?
Come back at my tears!
Evil spirits, l defy you with the fire of my wrath
on your infernal altar.
Countertenor David Daniels is Rinaldo in this Bayerische Staatsoper production directed by David Alden. Harry Bicket conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Opinions are divided on Alden's interpretation and staging, but the musical values, particularly the singing of David Daniels, have been acclaimed.
Almirena: Act 2 Aria, Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep)
Perhaps the most famous piece in the opera, this devastatingly simple tune is one that Handel re-used several times. He originally wrote the melody for his 1705 opera Almira, using it again a couple of years later for the aria Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa (Leave the Thorn, Take the Rose) in his oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno.
The most famous reincarnation of the melody is in Rinaldo. Held captive by Armida, Almirena weeps inconsolably for her beloved Rinaldo.
Lascia ch'io pianga Mia cruda sorte,
E che sospiri La libertà.
Il duolo infranga Queste ritorte,
De' miei martiri Sol per pietà.
Let me weep over my cruel fate
and sigh for freedom.
May my grief mercifully break
these chains of anguish.
Athough this is an aria for soprano, the riveting scene above is from the film Farinelli, a dramatization of the story of the castrato Carlo Broschi (1705 - 1782), known as Farinelli and considered one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. In the film, Farinelli's singing voice was provided by Polish soprano Ewa Malas-Godlewska and countertenor Derek Lee Ragin, who were recorded separately then digitally merged in an attempt to recreate the sound of a castrato.
Here is the earlier aria, Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa, from Handel's oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Truth) sung by Swedish mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg.