A much anticipated, all-star event
In Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2011-2012 season, Handel’s 1711 opera Rinaldo is one of the year’s most anticipated events. The international cast includes David Daniels as in the title role, Sonia Prina as Goffredo, Julia Kleiter as Almirena, Luca Pisaroni as Argante, Elza van den Heever as Armida, and Iestyn Davies as Eustazio. The conductor is Harry Bicket, with Francisco Negrin directing a production by Louis Désiré. This is an all-star event that will offer this rarely produced Baroque masterpiece to Chicago audiences.
Adapted from Torquato Tasso’s 1581 epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata, the libretto concerns the role of Rinaldo in rescuing the city of Jerusalem from invaders. Those familiar with Rossini’s opera Armida will recognize a similar situation, in which the sorceress Armida tries to conquer Rinaldo, while her feelings for him overcome those efforts. Handel’s version is an earlier treatment of the same story, and also has an Armida posing as much a challenge to Rinaldo as he is to her. In Handel’s opera, Rinaldo assists Goffredo (based on the historic character Godfrey of Bouillon) in battling King Argante. Argante’s forces include the sorceress Armida, which puts Rinaldo and the crusaders at a disadvantage until they invoke supernatural forces of their own. The result is a tour de force, full of some of Handel’s most impressive music.
The first act includes Armida’s fiery aria “Furie terribili,” which reflects the sorceress’s opening rage. Her second-act “Ah, crudel” is intense, as is her later revenge aria. Rinaldo’s “Cara sposa” is equally impressive for its sustained emotion, with “Or la tromba” including stunning orchestral effects in what is one of Handel’s showpieces. These and the rest which comprise Rinaldo convey well the dramatic and emotional intensity Handel derived from Tasso’s famous story. While many will have seen or heard recordings of this work conducted by Malgoire, Jacobs, or Hogwood, the seven performances Lyric offers will probably be recalled as one of the best ways to experience one of Handel’s most enduring scores.
James L. Zychowicz
Rinaldo runs from February 29 through March 24, 2012 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Tickets and more information here.