Music by George Frideric Handel
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill
Based on the epic poem Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso
April 19, 21, 27, and 29, 2018
The Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.
Above: Scenes from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Rinaldo, with Andrey Nemzer, Stéphanie Lessard, David Trudgen, Jennifer Taverner, Christopher Dunham, Bruce Kelly, Jennifer Turner, Jessica Wagner, Allison Ward, Nolan Kehler. Timothy Vernon conducts the Victoria Symphony. The production is directed by Glynis Leyshon, with set and costume design by Pam Johnson, lighting by Eric Champoux, projection design by Corwin Ferguson, and choreography by Jacques Lemay.
One of Handel's most flamboyant accomplishments
Handel's first big hit for the London stage, Rinaldo contains some of his most ravishing music and tells an exotic tale of war, love, and sorcery.
The story introduces General Goffredo and the mighty knight Rinaldo, who are at war with Argante, the blustering king of Jerusalem, and his mistress, the wicked enchantress Armida. When Armida kidnaps Rinaldo's beloved fiancée Almirena, Rinaldo and Goffredo embark on a quest to rescue Almirena and defeat Armida and her minions.
Set in a world inhabited by sorcerers, kings, mermaids, furies, and dragons, Rinaldo is a masterpiece of Baroque opera – an extraordinary theatrical and musical experience, full of spectacle and magic.
Pacific Opera Victoria's steampunk-meets-fantasy Rinaldo
Schmopera's review of Rinaldo by Melissa Ratcliff
Baroque opera doesn't tend to get the air time of most other periods ... But Pacific Opera Victoria shows the relevance, flexibility, and brilliance of the genre in one of the most innovative, magical productions I've ever seen...
It's one part steampunk, one part fantasy movie, one part 50s B-movie, and 100% delightful...
The set and props people absolutely deserve a mention here. From a bed of roses falling like darts from the sky, to the watering can filled with glitter, to the crystal sparkle rain, to the Volcano house, the whole show was absolutely magical...
The orchestra under Timothy Vernon was superb – led with great finesse that never overshadowed the voices, and full of lovely touches, like a sopranino recorder solo as a bird, and a blistering harpsichord solo that brought the house down. The stage direction of Glynis Leyshon was dynamic and thoughtful, with great use of a small space, and movement that was dynamic, interesting, and an absolute pleasure to watch.
This entire production is one of the most clever, imaginative productions I ever remember seeing, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If this is where Baroque opera is going, consider me a convert!
Rinaldo is kooky, but it works
Pacific Opera Victoria's clever and charming twist on Rinaldo is unmissable
Times Colonist review by Adrian Chamberlain.
This is a superb production, beautifully staged, cleverly directed and well-performed. In this opera, there is a lot of lyrical repetition, yet thanks to Leyshon and company, we are unceasingly entertained.
The Victoria Symphony benefits from conductor Timothy Vernon's obvious love of the material ... Harpsichordist Tatiana Vassilieva was a special delight throughout – her extended solo as poor Rinaldo is buffeted by the furies was a virtuoso workout earning its own applause...
The visual tricks ... [give] the production a circus-like appeal. Rinaldo ascends skyward in a full-sized boat; a Chinese-style dragon lashes its tail; English rowhouses belching smoke suggest a children's storybook come to life. One of the design team's triumphs is a giant moon projection with many incarnations – often featuring a creeping spider representing the sorceress' diabolical inclinations.
Leyshon's gift for intelligent humour works wonderfully ...
This is one of the best creations I've seen from Pacific Opera Victoria. Don't miss it.
Pacific Opera Victoria's Rinaldo the original operatic mashup!
Opera Canada review by Robin Miller.
Rinaldo ... takes the real-life First Crusades and the siege of Jerusalem, mixes in a pinch of romance and a hint of betrayal ... then tosses in a few mermaids and an evil sorceress in a flying chariot pulled by a couple of fire-breathing dragons...
... if you are Pacific Opera Victoria, you forgo the flying chariot (but keep one non-fire-breathing dragon), play down the point of the Crusades ... and play up the opera's storybook aspects...
POV's production ... is a visual feast ...
a giant radio ... opens like the wardrobe to Narnia and through that magic portal emerge both ordinary and extraordinary beings...
Andrey Nemzer is that most unusual creature, a heroic countertenor, able to dispatch incredibly high notes with absolute ease ... He can act, too, and be silly when required.
As Almirena, soprano Stéphanie Lessard had the fearsome task of delivering one of Handel's best known and loved arias ... while dressed in bubble-gum pink tulle and tied up in Armida's giant spider web. She succeeded...
... Jennifer Taverner brought vocal power to a role that required her to be furious most of the time, with just a brief interlude for falling silly in love-at-first-sight with Rinaldo...
David Trudgen held his own against the power of Nemzer with a very different sound to his countertenor: lighter and sweeter but just as secure...
Conductor Timothy Vernon kept the complex music sure and steady yet lively enough to dance to.
Handel's Rinaldo ideal for a thrilling reboot
Countertenor Andrey Nemzer (Rinaldo) and soprano Stéphanie Lessard (Almirena) talk with Mike Devlin of the Times Colonist about life on the road and the challenges and joys of performing in POV's production of Rinaldo.
Baroque costuming and traditional storytelling are out for the ... 18th-century classic. Leather jackets, mermaids, dragons, a magician, and a witch are in during the Royal Theatre run for what its two prinicpal singers are calling a fairy tale of epic proportions...
To see adults like us playing like that on stage, it's a good example for children. Yes, it's work, it's very serious work. But if we don't have fun on stage, audiences will see that.
POV Goes For Baroque
Robert Moyes talks with conductor Timothy Vernon about Rinaldo for Monday Magazine.
It was on the eve of his 26th birthday in 1711 when Handel wowed his new hometown of London with Rinaldo, an operatic extravaganza that made the German-born composer an overnight sensation.
"Rinaldo had incredible energy and spectacular production values, and was a wonderfully appealing and dramatic work," says Timothy Vernon ... "It was meant as a showcase ... Handel even cherry-picked some of his pre-existing arias to add to the new ones – he had great aspirations as he introduced himself to a brand new audience".
WIth the Victoria Symphony
Pacific Opera Victoria Production, 2018
Directed by Glynis Leyshon
A row-house in early 1940s London. We see a family – the father in his uniform, about to leave for the war; the mother in great distress. The three children play with their toys, then huddle together for comfort as a radio broadcast of the opera begins. They settle down to hear the story.
Goffredo and Rinaldo anticipate the final decisive battle in their war against Argante and Armida. As Rinaldo looks forward to the great happiness of marrying Goffredo's daughter Almirena, Goffredo promises she will indeed be his reward – but only after they achieve victory. Almirena chimes in, urging Rinaldo to fight with courage (Combatti di forte).
Argante is ushered in amid trumpet calls and asks Goffredo for a three-day truce. Goffredo graciously agrees.
Left alone, Argante expresses his anxiety about the outcome of the war and calls for his beloved Armida to come to him. Armida arrives, calling on her furies to encircle her (Furie terribili). She announces that she has asked the fates what hope remains for their side; she has been told that if the enemy loses the help of Rinaldo, there is a chance of victory. Argante offers to kill Rinaldo at once, but Armida tells him she has a better plan.
In her garden, Almirena asks the birds to tell her where Rinaldo is (Augelletti che cantata). He arrives, and the couple sing an exuberant love duet (Scherzano sul tuo volto). Suddenly they are interrupted by Armida, who snatches Almirena away. Although Rinaldo fights back, he is unable to prevent Armida from abducting Almirena. Left alone and distraught, he mourns the loss of his beloved (Cara sposa).
When Goffredo hears what has happened, he too is grief-stricken, and urges Rinaldo to go with him to find a sorcerer he knows, who can read the stars and will surely help them.
On their quest to find the sorcerer, Goffredo and Rinaldo reach the sea, where a beautiful woman waits in a boat near the shore as two mermaids play in the water. The woman beckons to Rinaldo, promises she will bring him to his beloved, and joins the mermaids in an alluring trio about love's delights (Il vostro maggio). Caught under the spell of the sirens, Rinaldo boards the boat, and, deaf to Goffredo's calls to think of reason, honour, and duty, he sails away.
Left alone, Goffredo vows to fight on for victory or death (Mio cor, che mi sai dir?).
Held captive in Armida's palace, Almirena weeps as Argante looks on in growing pity and love. He confesses his passion to her, but she is inconsolable (Lascia ch'io pianga). Declaring his heart lost, Argante promises to help her (Basta che sol tu chieda).
Meanwhile, Rinaldo is brought before Armida. He is defiant and demands that she return Almirena to him. Armida finds her heart softening and declares that her handsome prisoner has conquered her. He adamantly rejects her pleas and prayers for love. (Fermati! No, crudel!).
Finally Armida tries to seduce Rinaldo by transforming herself into Almirena and accusing him of abandoning her (Crudel, tu ch'involasti). At first he is taken in by the deception and embraces his beloved. But as soon as Armida returns to her own form, he recoils in horror. Armida again turns into Almirena, but Rinaldo comes to his senses and leaves in a fury. Left alone, Armida is torn between rage and love, pleading for his pity even as she threatens to kill him for spurning her (Ah! Crudel, il pianto mio).
Continuing to hope, Armida again assumes the appearance of Almirena, just as Argante enters. Addressing his "beloved Almirena," he blurts out a promise to free her from the cruelty of Armida. Righteously infuriated, Armida reveals herself and threatens Argante as he desperately apologizes. Finally, fed up, he proclaims that he loves Almirena and will fight his war without any help from Armida or her demons. He flees. Armida vows vengeance as she looks into the future and sees Goffredo journeying toward the mountain retreat of the sorcerer (Vo' far guerra, e vincer voglio).
Goffredo arrives at the mountain, and the sorcerer warns him that he is in grave danger. Armida has sent a dragon to defeat him. While fighting bravely, Goffredo is about to die when the sorcerer presents him with a magic wand. Wielding the wand, Goffredo defeats the dragon and sets off toward Armida's stronghold as the sorcerer wishes him well (Andate o forti).
Within her castle, Armida is about to kill Almirena. Rinaldo begs her to stop and then tries to attack her just as Goffredo enters. In the ensuing conflict, Armida vanishes, and Rinaldo, Goffredo, and Almirena are triumphantly reunited. But having defeated Armida's magic, they must now vanquish their earthly enemy.
As Argante prepares for the final battle and urges his soldiers to show courage, Armida appears. The two are wary of one another until Argante asks Armida to forgive him for his infidelity. She admits that she too transgressed briefly with Rinaldo. They embrace and make plans to defeat their enemies (Al trionfo del nostro furore).
Meanwhile Rinaldo and Goffredo plan their battle strategy and look forward to victory and peace. The battle begins. RInaldo and Goffredo emerge victorious, capturing Argante and Armida.
Rinaldo and Almirena are finally able to find happiness together, and all proclaim the triumph of virtue over evil (Vinto è sol della virtù).
Website devoted to all things Handel (even Handel trading cards and postage stamps)
Take it from the Top: The Da Capo Aria
What do Baroque opera and baseball have in common? Find out with this enjoyable introduction to the Da Capo Aria by writer Paul Thomason.
The production was loaned to the Metropolitan Opera for its centennial season by the National Arts Centre of Canada "in deep appreciation of the many years during which Canadians have enjoyed opera from the Met - on tour, on radio and in New York."The production marked the Met debuts of Mario Bernardi and of Samuel Ramey as Argante. Also in the cast were Marilyn Horne as in the title role and Edda Moser as Armida.
Issue 5 (Tuesday, March 6, 1711) by Joseph Addison includes some critical comments on Italian opera along with his story of the Sparrows for the Opera.
Addison fails to mention that he himself had a few years earlier written a libretto in English for Thomas Clayton's opera Rosamond, which had been a disastrous failure. The music was apparently so dreadful that one reviewer wrote Rosamond mounted the stage on purpose to frighten all England with its abominable musick." Other comments referred to Rosamond as a confused chaos of music ... its only merit ... its shortness and, most cuttingly, called it the funeral dirge of the English opera. The failure of his one venture into opera creation may have fueled Addison's diatribes against Italian opera.
Issue 14 (Friday, March 16, 1711) by Richard Steele compares RInaldo (the opera at the Hay-Market) with a Punch and Judy show (Steele clearly preferred the latter).
The lives and influence of Addison and Steele.
These short, comparatively informal essays, published frequently, have been compared to blogging ... Whatever the case, the early eighteenth-century journalism of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele remains an entertaining look into the attitudes, tastes, and styles of their period.
English translation of Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso, Published 1581 in Parma, Italy. Translated by Edward Fairfax (1560-1635); translation first published in London, 1600.
The English translation by Edward Fairfax of Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso. The 14-hour audio book may be downloaded or played online.
An epic poem some 600 pages long, ... massive in its scope, and fusing metaphysical depth with psychological profundity, it is a towering achievement, equalled only by the works of Dante, Shakespeare and Tolstoy.