- October 28, 2019
Presenting Handel’s Rinaldo as written would no doubt leave most modern audiences bewildered by the rather silly drama of Saracen kings, wizards, the wicked sorceress queen of Damascus Armida and the battling crusaders led by Goffredo, Eustazio and hero Rinaldo. Yes to modern eyes a lot of silly nonsense. So why not go with that silliness and start the whole thing in a school where the boys re-enact the legend.
Director Robert Carsen does just this, setting the whole in a world steeped in a combination of imagery lifted straight from Ronald Searle but then seasoned with the disturbing twist of mid twentieth century bondage pornography.
James Hall starts as Goffredo rather hesitantly but soon reveals his fine voice and within minutes more than proves his worth. Jake Arditti is simply wonderful as Rinaldo, his small frame belying his huge and incredibly precise voice, rattling through his complexly ornamented arias at breakneck speed with flawless confidence.
Aubrey Alicock’s Argente richly balances the force of the counter tenors and is darkly comic as he declares his love for Armida before falling for the adolescent charms of Almirena.
Anna Devin’s Almirena is wonderfully sweet and innocent and her delivery of the work’s most famous aria is sung with a gentle sweetness so often lacking in other performances where it is so often belted out. That said it has everything one might hope for, just delivered with delicacy and charm and seemingly effortless ornamentation.
Full marks too for Tom Scott-Cowell as Eustazio who, as the story unfolds, reveals a very fine and rich voice indeed.
Rinaldo’s schoolboy crusaders add much needed comedy to the whole whereas Almirena’s furies add a sense of devilry, wickedly funny and no more so than when luring Rinaldo away like lascivious mermaids.
Their leader is the wicked queen Armida played with utter conviction by Jaquelyn Stucker. The voice alone could hold the role, soaringly powerful and emphatic, but here this is multiplied in effect by a brilliant acting performance as she stalks the stage in body clinging latex, every inch the dominatrix, lifted from 50s porn and wielding a cane which she uses with evil abandon. This is a stellar performance that embraces the power of Handel’s fine music and delivers it fully within Carsen’s brilliant re-imagining.
David Bates drives the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra, on top form, with rapid-fire power when needed but gentle delicacy when required. Gideon Davey’s design is clean lined and the monochrome palette in both structure and costume is wonderfully coloured by Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet’s lighting.
This is Glyndebourne at its best, delivering fine early opera in a way that is captivating and fresh, a very welcome revival that one hopes will stay in the repertoire for many years to come.
Glyndebourne Opera House