Status: Usually despatched within 10 - 12 working days
Subtitle: Special Edition: Includes Handel The Entertainer A Portrait of the Composer
Publisher: Select Music
Buy Together For: £71.23
"A wonderfully original, entertaining and sensuous performance. Deborah York is beautiful, full of humorous expression and feeling; from her impish Crusader entry exhorting Rinaldo, segueing to pom pom waving and flirtatious smiles, to her librarian-ish bewitchment, to her poignant and lovely imprisonment. I loved the colors, the furniture, the clothes, the sex and of course the music.
This Opera film provides the most fun that you could ever hope to have watching a Handel opera. It also presents a continuous flow of show-stopping arias, sung by a top-quality cast. It is difficult to make an opera such as Rinaldo relevant to the new millennium. The director has to create a modern equivalent of the spectacle and excitement that accompanied the piece at its premiere in 1711. David Alden, the stage director of this production from Munich, accomplishes this brilliantly. This is a pleasant surprise to me in view of the fact that I slated his 1996 Ariodante for being traditional and unimaginative . The portents are not good as the curtain rises on a suburban living room with garish wallpaper, orange sofa and, inexplicably, a small pink tent. The cast, in modern dress are lounging around smoking cigarettes. But I need not worry; this production is as camp as a field full of pink tents. A quick look at the synopsis tells me that the loungers are, in fact, Christian crusaders who have come to Jerusalem to fight the Saracen King Argante. He is assisted by a woman in an attractive green cocktail dress who turns out to be the sorceress Armida.
The first act is something of a countertenor-fest, with no fewer than four swarthy and disconcertingly high-pitched men on stage. Readers of my opera reviews will know that I am no lover of countertenors. I prefer attractive contraltos in trousers singing the castrato roles, but the sheer beauty of these four voices eventually won me over and I was able uncross my legs and watch through the gaps between my fingers. David Daniels, in particular, gives a ravishing account of the title role of Rinaldo.
Noemi Nadelmann has a fine soprano voice and performs with gusto, particularly when riding a dragon. The stratospheric arias are given to Alimirena, Rinaldo's betrothed, who is abducted by Armida. Deborah York performs these beautifully, particularly Lascia ch'io pianga (let me weep) the opera's best-known aria. The two soprano voices go well together, particularly in the scene where the witch and the heroine exchange bodies. (Didn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer do that?). Egils Sinins, as Argante, has a sonorous voice which is particularly noticeable because he is the only member of the cast to make use of the bass clef. The Munich audience love every minute sounding as enthusiastic as an audience at La Scala or the Met. The biggest roar of approval comes for a stage effect that is stunningly simple. The battle between the Christians and Saracens is represented by a row of plaster statues placed across the entire length of the stage. A casual flick from Rinaldo causes them to topple like a row of dominos.
When Almirena tries to escape from Armida, she is confronted by a 20ft high plastic Bob the Builder who promptly drops his trousers and flashes at her. I do not understand the significance of this. Maybe it is David Alden's riposte to critics like me suggesting that he has a problem directing Handel: 'Can he fix it? Yes he can.'
The director is working off the theory that Handel was not so serious about this story. He has a point. Handel was not a blood and guts opera composer and many of his operas are infused with humor (Flavio, Parthenope). The "happy" ending of this opera suggests that it is meant to be a comedy. The first production in 1711 was heavy on the special effects of the era: fire-breathing dragon in a wooden theater? Handel's serious religious "oratorios" lie in his future. Handel was first and foremost a showman--he might have loved this production.
The sheer mischief of having the Christian commander-in-chief stride in like a TV evangelist and conduct a revival meeting had me laughing out loud. David Walker is tall, blonde and slightly crazy in the role of Goffredo; David Daniels is cool, dark and a bit the gangsta in his suit. Almirena comes on like the prissy chick in glasses who spends all her time at the library. The comic interplay to Handel's glorious music is broken by the kidnapping. When David Daniels sings the famous aria "Cara sposa" lamenting the disappearance of his betrothed it seems to strike with double force. This might not be "traditional" but it is great, satiric fun.
The fantasy cabaret of the scenes does not seem to me to be at all at odds with Handel's marvelous music; but some reviewers would apparently like to see this performed in powdered wigs and stiff, formal poses. Who knows how much "burlesque" and "lewd gropings" may have occurred during contemporary performances? The obvious analogy is to Shakespeare at the original Globe; judging by the quantities of orange peel and nut shells unearthed by archaeologists, theatre-going was not a particularly formal affair in the sixteenth century. "Insult to Handel's music"? "Simply horrible and insulting"? I doubt if Handel was such a stuffed shirt. And far from being a "stuffed kewpie doll", I think Almerina is cute and sexy as hell, especially when she desperately flees the infamous bobble head giant. Almida is hot! And David Daniels couldn't turn in a bad performance if he tried."
Rating: 21/06/2009 By: Fallon Ann Williams