On Glyndebourne’s production of Rinaldo

On 24th June I was invited to see Handel’s opera – Rinaldo. Robert Carsen’s production was set in a school, inside the imagination of a school boy Rinaldo, played by Ieston Davies, who was (I can’t wait to write it) – absolutely fantastic. A nasty teacher (Karina Gauvin) made him write an essay about the Crusades and he imagines himself as a noble hero, who is on a quest to save the girl he loves (Christina Landshamer) and fight evil along the way.

First impressions: so many countertenors, basically men singing really high. At first, it is a little funny, you look around to see if anybody else finds it funny. Then as you adjust to the sound, it makes absolute sense for it to be sang this way – afterall it is about very young boys. By the third act, when Goffredo (played by the amazing Tim Mead) sings his aria – I realised that it might be the most beutiful thing I’ve ever heard. To ears spoiled by great opera, when world-class singing is taken as standard, Rinaldo, in my opinion, opens one’s mind to appreciating sound in a new way and this, more than anything else, makes it so wonderful.

Second impressions: frankly, the whole thing is ridiculous. The plot itself is a little underdeveloped, blurry and awkward – perfectly fitting a young boy’s imagination. The production celebrates this ridiculousness and enhances it to the extreme. There isn’t a moment without amusement, ‘knights’ on bicycles going up in the air, crazy-dressed magicians telling boys the way to combat hell is to wear dresses, the final battle being fought in some sort of wierd football dance routine and so on. Although very funny, at times, the awkawardness is a little uncomfortable. Overall, however, everything in that opera being over-the-top is what makes it so memorable and enjoyable. In general I am a big fan of opera not taking itself too seriously and this was a very successful culmination of the ability to laugh at oneself.

Final impressions: as in the end of Harry Potter books – ‘all was well’. Good wins over evil, lovers get reunited to live happily ever after, there is even freedom and love for the bad guys in the end. This opera eulogises dreaming and hoping; in our busy practical day-to-day world, valuing this is what needed to keep humanity human. I congratulate everyone involved on this successful unique production that I will certainly never forget, and if I was doing the star system (do I? My review structures are a bit confused) I would happily give it all 5 stars.

Note: This was my first time in Glyndebourne and it was the most fantastic experience. Also I got the opportunity to chat to most of the cast and Danielle de Niese (yay) so to show off my successful fangirling, here is a picture of their autographs.


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