Glyndebourne was bound to revive its 2011 Robert Carsen production of this fabulous piece; if you did not see it but you can recall the same director’s superb Semele at the ENO, now is your chance – it’s an evening of vocal and theatrical fireworks, which we loved first time round (review here) and this time, it has Iestyn Davies in the title role. If you don’t know the music, Rinaldo contains two of the greatest pieces ever written for the voice in ‘Cara sposa‘ and ‘Or la tromba‘ (these are YouTube videos of David Daniels’ versions – not at his best by any means, but still dazzling) and Iestyn gets to sing them both.
The production is one of those that gives the lie to all those who arrogantly proclaim that anyone who protests about meaningless, tawdry, unmusical productions where you can’t see half the action unless you’re in the £250 stalls, must only want top hats and crinolines. It’s modern and funny, but it still respects the music, it gives the singers credible things to do whilst allowing them space to cope with some fiendish music, it shows expert use of the whole stage with no dead space and it makes complete sense in its updating – as Carsen says, the invention of an heroic self by a bullied schoolboy fits the narrative well, and suits the plot’s many vagaries and the libretto’s occasional absurdity.
A cast so rich in counter-tenors is perhaps a challenge for those who find it hard to take so many voices with that potentially aetherial sound, and indeed in a more ‘conventional’ production this might be an issue, but such is the web of fantasy woven by this one that you’ll find yourself drawn in to this world of make-believe and poetry. As well as Iestyn Davies’ title role, the excellent Tim Mead takes on Goffredo, Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his Glyndebourne debut as Eustazio and the countertenor quartet is completed by James Laing’s Magus.
As in 2011, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is conducted by Ottavio Dantone, so expect stylish, idiomatic playing with exceptional continuo support. In the introductory notes, the director remarks that “…we love Handel not only for his extraordinary music but also for a certain Shakespearian quality: the ability to embrace comedy and tragedy and to celebrate both.” If you have yet to experience the effects of that, then Glyndebourne’s Rinaldo could be the ideal opportunity to do so.
Glyndebourne presents Rinaldo on 9, 12, 14, 17, 19, 22, 24 August 2014. For tickets and further information, click here: glyndebourne.com/production/rinaldo-2014