In 1711, Handel, subsequently the composer of Messiah, staged Rinaldo at the Queen’s Theatre in London’s Haymarket. It was the first successful Italian opera in England. An advance on Purcell’s English masque The Fairy Queen, Rinaldo depicted the siege of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, called by Pope Urban to deliver the Holy Land from Saracen (Muslim) domination. The story came from Tasso, who with Dante, Petrarch and Ariosto was an epic poet of the Italian Renaissance.
The score tests the production team. It prescribes battling Crusaders, a King of Jerusalem, a Queen of Damascus (also an Amazon Queen and an Enchantress), and a magician with magic wands There are furies, monsters, an Enchanted Garden full of birds, a steep mountain topped by an Enchanted Palace. When all that collapses, the Crusaders find themselves floating on the sea.
Rinaldo contains Handel’s famous melodies, Lascia ch’io pianga and the ‘bel canto’ aria Cara sposa.
In his turbulent operatic career, Handel had to deal with rival opera stars, rival monarchs (the Protestant succession) and rival opera companies. The Hanoverian monarchy opposed the Old Pretender, father of Bonny Prince Charlie; the ‘Royal Academy’ opposed an opera company backed by the Prince of Wales.
Short Guides to Great Operas written by Michael Steen, author of the acclaimed The Lives and Times of the Great Composers, are concise, entertaining, and easy-to-read books about opera. They are packed with useful information and informed opinion, helping to make you a truly knowledgeable opera-goer, and so maximising your enjoyment of a great musical experience.
Each at around the price you pay for a standard opera-house programme, and available from all popular ebook retailers and ereaders, they are the perfect accompaniment to a night at an opera – whether that’s at home, or at the opera house, or in the cinema for opera on screen, such as ROH Live, Met Opera HD Live, or Glyndeb...