Rinaldo (opera)

Rinaldo (opera)

"Rinaldo" (HWV 7) is an Italian opera by George Frideric Handel, now a part of the standard operatic repertoire. The Italian libretto was written by Giacomo Rossi based on episodes of Torquato Tasso's "Gerusalemme liberata" ("Jerusalem Delivered"). It is a heroic story of battle and love set in the time of the First Crusade (1096–1099).


"Rinaldo" was the first opera Handel produced for London and the first Italian opera composed specifically for the London stage. It was first performed in Her Majesty's Theatre in Haymarket on 24 February 1711. It was a great success thanks in part to the participation of two of the leading castrati of the era, Nicolo Grimaldi and Valentino Urbani. The strains of financing its grand production, however, resulted in liens from the unpaid craftsmen, and the Lord Chamberlain's office revoked the impresario Aaron Hill's license nine days after the opening of "Rinaldo". [ [http://www.aam.co.uk/features/9901.htm (Academy of Ancient Music)Anthony Hicks, "Handel’s Rinaldo — Character descriptions translated from the Italian version of the libretto"] .]

The pastoral idyll of the plot (Armida's hate for the crusaders turned into love for one crusader, Rinaldo) appealed to many Baroque artists. The libretto was initially written in some form by Aaron Hill, who had taken up the management of the Queen's Theatre for the season 1710-11, and translated into Italian by Rossi, as "opera seria" in any other language was unthinkable on the London stage. The extent of Hill's involvement is disputed: in modern terms it might be said that he provided the "treatment" of Tasso's poem. Hill provided a preface to the published libretto, outlining his artistic purposes, which were to add to recently-heard imported Italian operas, which, however, had been "compos’d for Tastes and Voices, different from those who were to sing and hear them on the English Stage" and to provide the features that London audiences had come to expect "the Machines and Decorations, which bestow so great a Beauty on their Appearance", which had their London origins in the Restoration spectaculars, or "machine plays". He hoped therefore "to fill the eye with more delightful Prospects, so to give Two Senses equal pleasure’". Anthony Hicks writes, "In essence he wanted to re-create the spectacular stage effects which had been a feature of the semi-operas of the previous decade (notably Purcell’s "King Arthur") while allowing the music to take the new Italian form dominated by solo arias connected by recitative." [ [http://www.aam.co.uk/features/9901.htm (Academy of Ancient Music)Anthony Hicks, "Handel’s Rinaldo — Character descriptions translated from the Italian version of the libretto"] .]

Harpsichord solo in Vo' Far Guerra

Handel set about making a striking impression as a harpsichordist with a solo section for himself in the aria 'Vo' far guerra', in the score marked as 'cembalo' written in place of a bar. He reportedly improvised outrageously both thematically and virtuosically; an idea of his playing can be gleaned from an arrangement of the aria made by William Babell, who had heard Handel play in the opera and made a reconstruction in the spirit of the event. [The score of this solo along with relevant information is in the following volume of the complete Handel edition: IMSLP2|id=Works_for_Organ_%26_Harpsichord_(Handel%2C_George_Frideric)|cname=Works for Organ and Harpsichord] Harpsichordists today generally play a simpler contemporary 'reconstruction' of the solo included with the score, though the best, such as Trevor Pinnock, include virtuosic improvisations of their own on the model of Babell.



At the time of the First Crusade, forces led by Goffredo (Godfrey of Bouillon) are laying siege on Jerusalem which is under the rule of the Saracen king Argante. Aiding Goffredo are his brother Eustazio and Goffredo's daughter Almirena, who is in love with the knight Rinaldo. But Rinaldo is taken hostage by Armida, Argante's ally, who is the Queen of Damascus and a powerful enchantress.

Act 1

The Christian camp outside the gates of Jerusalem. Rinaldo, a knight, reminds Goffredo, the captain general of the Crusade force, that Goffredo promised him the hand of his daughter Almirena, if the city is conquered. Armida, Queen of Damascus, enchantress and mistress of Argante, the Saracen king of Jerusalem, arrives in a fiery chariot and tells him that they will only conquer the city if Rinaldo is detached from the Christian army. In a grove, Almirena and Rinaldo affirm their love. Armida leads Almirena away. When Rinaldo resists, the women are carried away in a black cloud and Rinaldo is devastated. Goffredo and his brother Eustazio enter and the latter advises consulting a hermit to defeat Armida. Rinaldo calls on tempests to help him.

Act 2

On a seashore, amid mermaids, Rinaldo and Goffredo complain about how far they must travel to find the hermit. Eustazio tells them they are close to their destination. Rinaldo is lured into a boat by a spirit in the form of a lovely woman who tells him Almirena has sent her. His companions are unable to prevent him entering the boat. In Armida's enchanted palace garden, Argante makes advances to Almirena, saying he can prove his love by breaking Armida's spell. She pleads to be left alone. Armida is pleased at Rinaldo's capture and offers him her love. When he refuses, she changes her appearance to that of Almirena. Taken in at first, he is furious when the deception is revealed. On Argante's arrival, she again changes her appearance which only exposes his affection for Almirena. She calls for revenge.

Act 3

The hermit's cave at the bottom of a mountain with a palace at the top. The hermit-magician tells Goffredo and Eustazio that Rinaldo and Almirena are prisoners in the palace. The Christians' first attempt to release them is repelled by 'ugly' spirits, they escape back to the cave and the magician gives them special wands to conquer witchcraft. They strike the palace gates, the mountain disappears, leaving Goffredo and Eustazio clinging to the sides of a huge rock in the middle of the sea. Armida tries to stab Almirena, Rinaldo draws his sword but is restrained by spirits. His companions arrive and use their wands to transform the garden into the area near the city gate at Jerusalem. They are reunited with Rinaldo. Armida again tries to stab Almirena, Rinaldo attacks her and she vanishes. Argante and Armida are reconciled. The armies prepare to fight. The Christians win, thanks to Rinaldo. Argante and Armida are captured and profess the Christian faith. Almirena and Rinaldo are united.

Notable arias

*"Lascia ch'io pianga" - Almirena
*"Venti, turbini, prestate" - Rinaldo
*"Or la tromba" - Rinaldo
*"Cara sposa" - Rinaldo

"Lascia ch'io pianga"

"Rinaldo" today: performances and recordings

Like Handel's other operas, "Rinaldo" fell into oblivion for two hundred years. However, starting in the 1970s, it has been revived regularly and has become part of the standard operatic repertoire. Several arias from this opera, such as "Lascia ch'io pianga" and "Cara sposa", have become recitalists' favorites.

The roles originally written for castrati are nowadays performed either by women in "trouser roles" or by countertenors.

There are also several recordings of the entire opera, and it is regularly performed. In 1984, a production directed by Frank Corsaro of "Rinaldo" with mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in the title role at the Metropolitan Opera was the first Handel opera ever performed at the Met. In more recent years, the opera has been revived for the countertenor David Daniels, who also participated in a complete recording of it as Rinaldo with mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli as Almirena, and Christopher Hogwood conducting the Academy of Ancient Music. "Lascia ch'io pianga" was featured in the films "Farinelli", All Things Fair, "Fanny Hill" and L.I.E..



*citation|first=Winton|last=Dean|first2=J. Merrill|last2=Knapp|title=Handel's Operas, 1704-1726|publisher=Clarendon Press|year=1987
id=ISBN 0193152193
The first of the two volume definitive reference on the operas of Handel


*IMSLP2|id=Rinaldo, HWV 7a (Handel, George Frideric)|cname=Rinaldo, HWV 7a
*IMSLP2|id=Rinaldo, HWV 7b (Handel, George Frideric)|cname=Rinaldo, HWV 7b

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