Baroque Opera is Well Served by Madrid’s Concert-Version Rinaldo

13/03/2018

Handel, Rinaldo (concert performance): The English Concert / Harry Bicket (conductor), Auditorio de Música, Madrid, 11.3.2018. (JMI)

Cast:

Rinaldo – Iestyn Davies
Armida – Jane Archibald
Argante – Luca Pisaroni
Almirena – Joëlle Harvey
Goffredo – Sasha Cooke
Eustazio – Jakub Jósef Orlinski
Herald, Woman and Magician – Owen Willetts

In recent years, Madrid’s National Center of Musical Diffusion (CNDM) has organized a cycle dedicated to Baroque music which includes excellent concert versions of operas. Its programme has been very successful among music fans here, as is evidenced by the large attendance at these performances. The most recent offering is Handel’s Rinaldo, which had not been heard in Madrid since April 1991, when it was performed at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with the young María Bayo as Almirena.

As always, Harry Bicket’s reading of the work was both solid and convincing, although it was somewhat lacking in emotion. Under his baton, The English Concert gave a remarkable performance; in particular, I should mention harpsichordist Tom Foster and his accompaniment of Armida in Act II.

There were many names of interest in the vocal cast, and not one of the seven singers disappointed.

Rinaldo was interpreted by English countertenor Iestyn Davies, who gave a commendable performance; his singing agility is excellent. Soprano Jane Archibald was admirable too in the part of Armida, with a well-suited voice and expressive singing. She is no longer the light soprano usually found in the characters of Olympia or Zerbinetta.

I would also highlight the performance of bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as Argante. He was brilliant throughout, with a wide voice and great musicality. His first aria really ignited the audience’s enthusiasm. He dominated the character perfectly in every way and was the only soloist who did not use a score at any time.

Soprano Joëlle Harvey gave life to Almirena, and she especially shone is the beautiful aria ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’. This aria was borrowed by Handel from another of his works, Il trionfo del tempo è del disinganno, and the words changed (‘Lascia la spina’).

Among the secondary characters, a good impression was left by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in the part of Goffredo, and by countertenor Jakub Jósef Orlinski in the role of Eustazio. The third countertenor, Owen Willetts, did very well with the different characters that he played.

José M. Irurzun 

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