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Rinaldo – Press Reaction

Thu Aug 14 2014

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As you may be aware, Rinaldo opened at Glyndebourne on Saturday and that means that the nation’s opera critics were out in force. Here’s what they had to say:

The humour of Robert Carsen’s production was a big talking point for pretty much everyone. Alexandra Coghlan from The Arts Desk exclaimed how good it was to experience genuine humour in an opera house:  ‘Not a hear-how-clever-I-am-to-get-the-laborious-operatic-joke laugh, or an I-realise-this-is-supposed-to-be-funny-so-I’m-playing-along one, but a real, spontaneous laugh that tickles into sound before you’ve even had time to register its approach.’

Just as well, suggests Coghlan, as Rinaldo ‘is as much about spectacle as action. Its plot is overwrought, exaggerated beyond conviction (even by Handel’s standards) and would fall flat with a contemporary audience if played straight.‘  Michael Church at The Independent agrees, saying that ‘this show lets the magic and silliness of the plot take wing with glorious preposterousness.’ 

The humour didn’t, however, work for everyone. Hannah Nepil, writing for The Financial Times acknowledged ‘an imaginative concept and… several charming touches but ultimately saw the comedy as a problem: Some of the opera’s weightier themes end up trivialised in the process – can you really liken the historic battle between Christians and Muslims to a scuffle in a school playground? Meanwhile moments of poignancy, not least the abduction od Rinaldo’s beloved Almirena, become fodder for comedy. This Rinaldo frequently entertains, but it rarely moves.’

George Hall at The Guardian agreed, saying that ‘Though the stagecraft is clever – the explosions in the chemistry lab as young Rinaldo and his comrades attack the sorceress Armida’s palace are brilliantly entertaining – the way the show is consistently played for laughs feels both relentless and evasive, and ultimately trivial.’

One thing all the critics agreed on however was the superb performance given by Rinaldo himself, countertenor Iestyn Davies. Hannah Nepil  claimed his take on the role ‘marries depth of feeling with dazzling technique’, while Michael Church commented on the extent to which he overshadows his incredibly accomplished stagemates: ‘One just feels sorry for the other countertenors – Tim Mead and Anthony Roth Costanzo – who must share the stage with him; both excellent, both hopelessly outshone.’

Last but not least, the OAE and conductor Octavio Dantone were congratulated from every angle:

‘We savoured the exquisite playing of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ottavio Dantone’s direction – and particularly that of its continuos – with bated breath. I just want to see this marvellous show again – immediately.’ (Michael Church, Independent)

‘With the advocacy of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ottavio Dantone, the vitality of the music is in sure hands.’ (Hannah Nepil, FT)

The evening’s best features are Ottavio Dantone’s crisp conducting and the playing of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.’ (George Hall, The Guardian)

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ottavio Dantone, who made his house debut with this show in 2011, were simply magnificent in all departments, a fact warmly acknowledged by both cast and audience. No Handelian could have asked for more than these players gave under this exceptionally sensitive, responsive conductor – and he’s a mean keyboard player, too. Amongst the many special delights were Jonathan Manson’s exquisite ‘cello continuo, Elizabeth Kenny’s characteristically fine Theorbo and the forceful contributions of Chi­chi Nwanoku’s double bass.’ (Melanie Eskenazi, MusicOMH)

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