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9 Reviews
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rinaldo shoots and scores!
It's always good to have a fresh outlook placed on the subjects of Handel's Baroque operas - or at least I think so anyway. Whether it's traditional (although I've never seen a Handel opera done "authentically" period), whether it's in a modern setting, or according to a more abstract conception, it helps if there is a strong vision that is able to reconsider what the...
Published on 10 Aug 2012 by Keris Nine

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sublime music, poor production.
I am open to interpretations of operas and shifting the action to different eras. I particularly enjoyed the Glyndebourne production of Julius Caeser and was hoping for something similar. This production however was distracting and added nothing to my understanding of the piece. S & M schoolmistress in vinyl, St Trinians schoolgirls et all added nothing and seemed to be...
Published 16 months ago by Andy Pilborough-Skinner


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rinaldo shoots and scores!, 10 Aug 2012
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
It's always good to have a fresh outlook placed on the subjects of Handel's Baroque operas - or at least I think so anyway. Whether it's traditional (although I've never seen a Handel opera done "authentically" period), whether it's in a modern setting, or according to a more abstract conception, it helps if there is a strong vision that is able to reconsider what the essential themes of the work are and how they can be best presented to a modern audience. The purpose of any production, modern dress or otherwise, must surely be to reflect on what the work is actually about, not recreate a historical performance, and if it can break through the rigid formalism of opera seria and actually make it entertaining at the same time, well then so much the better.

Recognising that Handel's first London opera from 1711 is not the most consistent work, the majority of it cobbled together like a remix of Handel's earlier greatest hits, it certainly does no harm to try and make it look as fresh and meaningful as Handel somehow manages to make it all sound. Robert Carsen makes his intentions clear from the outset, asking the question "Were the Crusades political or inspired by an act of personal vengeance?" This message is written in chalk across a blackboard and it's an English boys' boarding school that acts as the backdrop or framing device to delve into the personal sentiments expressed so beautifully if somewhat generically in what is after all a patched together piece. In response to this history lesson question, a young boy, bullied and teased by his classmates, his life made a misery by his authoritarian teachers, imagines himself the great warrior Rinaldo and sees the mighty forces of Goffredo coming out from behind the blackboard to slay his tormentors.

Setting a Crusades war within the confines of a boarding school, the action taking place in classrooms, bike-sheds, dorms and locker rooms, with a gym turned into a torture chamber (there's a difference?) and an epic battle taking place on a football pitch, the production could however just as easily be seen as itself placing a distance between the actual events described and sung about in the libretto, but Carsen manages nonetheless to faithfully retain the entire sense of the original work within this setting. In the mind of a schoolboy, this story is wrapped up in teasing by his classmates over his girlfriend, and the dark figures of authority that keep them apart are those of the school teachers. Mix in some Furies with a St Trinian's thing going on and sadistic teachers in rubber bondage outfits and it certainly adds another dimension to the passions and characterisation of these mythological figures. There are lots of clever little details in the props, uniforms and locations of the school that fit very well with the Crusade theme, but these, quite correctly, remain secondary to the love story whose purity is reflected perfectly in the innocence of first-love in the playground and by the bike-sheds.

Many of the directorial choices provoke laughs from the audience at Glyndebourne, which you might not consider appropriate for an opera seria, but it shows that there is genuine engagement with the work. Whether it also inspires the performers I couldn't say, but musically and in terms of the singing, this is a magnificent production, so at least it clearly isn't a distraction. All the main roles are sung terrifically well. Tim Mead is one of the best Handel countertenors, but I've never heard him singing so well as Eustazio, his voice as angelically pure as a schoolboy soprano, so perhaps the production does indeed help in that respect. The purity and idealism of young love and innocent idealism also works in favour of contralto Sonia Prina's Rinaldo and Anett Fritsch's Almirena - both combining expressiveness with a gorgeous clarity and tone; and if being a sadistic headmaster and a kinky dominatrix school teacher gives force to the commanding performances of Luca Pisaroni and Brenda Rae as Argante and Armida - both of them demonstrating masterful coloratura - then I've no problem with that either. Varduhi Abrahamyan's Goffredo sounds strong enough at the start, but she isn't able to sustain this through to the final act.

The whole thing however is held together and driven along musically by the outstanding performance of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ottavio Dantone and anchored by his scintillating harpsichord playing, and it's given additional emphasis in the clarity of the audio tracks on this DVD/BD release. I don't think I praise the actual quality of the sound reproduction on Blu-ray releases quite enough, but when you hear the tone of the Baroque period instruments in orchestral playing like this and exceptionally good singing, it just sounds incredible. This is a very fine recording. Image quality too is near flawless, the production covered well in the editing with no distractions. The Opus Arte release also contains a few excellent short features on the production and the musical interpretation in the extra features interviews (it's good to hear the musicians views for a change), and there's a booklet with an essay on the work and a full synopsis. The BD is all-region, 1080i Full-HD, with PCM stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 mixes. Subtitles are in English, French and German only.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seen on television, this was an excellent production with great voices, 21 July 2012
Very happy to see that this production is being released (hopefully on DVD as well as Blu Ray). I was surprised at the review above. I saw this production on television and thought it was very good - it pleased the eye. But, it was the singing that made me give it a 5 star review. Sonia Prina was beyond excellent - I couldn't wait to hear her next song/recitative. She stood out for me, but the other voices were good too. If you can't get to Glyndebourne (and many of us can't), this is a good substitute. It will go on my Christmas list!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sublime music, poor production., 17 July 2013
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I am open to interpretations of operas and shifting the action to different eras. I particularly enjoyed the Glyndebourne production of Julius Caeser and was hoping for something similar. This production however was distracting and added nothing to my understanding of the piece. S & M schoolmistress in vinyl, St Trinians schoolgirls et all added nothing and seemed to be there just because the producer felt like throwing everything he could think of for cheap effect. Some great singing of some beautiful music but overall a disappointing purchase.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wet Dream, 14 Aug 2012
By 
I like to visit Glyndebourne most summers and last year I was all set to buy tickets for this production. On reading that it was to be directed by Robert Carsen I decided to save my money. I also avoided the touring production so it was not until it was broadcast on BBC4 recently that I caught up with it.

Rinaldo is a comedy about Christians and Saracens during the first crusade. Most directors seem to be averse to taking it at its face value though. Carsen has the wet idea of staging the piece as the dream of a bullied and abused schoolboy. The crusaders are schoolboys with breastplates worn over their school uniforms. The headmaster becomes the Saracen king and his schoolmistress becomes the sorceress Armida, played by Brenda Rae as a sort of Miss Whiplash in a rubber dress. Her furies are St Trinian's schoolgirls. Rinaldo meets his beloved Almirena in the bicycle shed. She is kidnapped by Armida and imprisoned in the school gym. And so it goes on with a mind-numbing paucity of invention.

It was clear from the interval interviews that Sonia Prina, who plays Rinaldo was unhappy with the entire concept and that she and Carsen were at loggerheads over it. She is a petite mezzo and her inclination is to play a trouser role heroically then along comes Carsen who dresses her as a little boy so that she loses all credibility. The role of Rinaldo has some beautiful and demanding music but, sadly, I felt that Prina could not make much of it. Part of the problem is that we hear also with our eyes. If she is standing in the bicycle shed behind a wire mesh singing "Cara sposa, amante cara" it just has no credibility.

This is not the world-class cast that we expect at Glyndebourne. Varduhi Abrahamyan makes little impression as Goffredo. In truth I suppose I prefer both these roles to be sung by countertenors. Countertenor Tim Mead is rather more successful as Eustacio although he has to sing his big number while repairing a puncture on his bicycle. Anett Fritsch is an insipid Almirena leaving me totally unmoved during the opera's best known aria "Lascia ch'io pianga". Slightly better were bass Luca Pisaroni as Argante and soprano Brenda Rae as Armida. Their Act III duet "Al trionfo del nostro furore" is the only number in the opera that really made me sit up and listen.

The programme was introduced by Katie Derham who, on two occasions, reminds us that this is a comedy and we are permitted to find it funny. If only.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Typical regietheater gone mad, 31 Aug 2014
This review is from: Handel: Rinaldo (Glyndebourne 2011) (Sonia Prina/ Varduhi Abrahamyan/ Tim Mead/ Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/ Robert Carsen/ Ottavio Dantone) (Opus Arte: OA1081D) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is another Robert Carsen production, so it is not surprising that it is fatuous. Typical regietheater gone mad. Reminds me of the recent Cardiff 'Nabucco', brilliant musically but ludicrously set (shame on David Pountney).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning production with superb singing, 28 Aug 2012
I watched this on TV and had to buy the DVD. I was thrilled with the production idea. I taught teenagers all my working life and felt Sonia Prima and the whole production caught their youth, vulnerability, heroism, and humour in a way no adult production could have done. I've seen Sonia Prima before in concert productions of Handel and felt she sang wonderfully again.
Stop it you silly people who are stick in the muds. I have seen productions transposed into unsuitable and incomprehensible times (ENO's Fledermaus set in wartime Germany comes to mind) but this one really works.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A DISAPPOINTMENT, 20 July 2012
By 
Dr. S. J. Wyatt (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
After Glyndebourne's imaginative and illuminating productions of Handel's Theodora, Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare, this Rinaldo is a real disappointment. The singers, orchestra and conducting are up to the usual high standard but Robert Carsen's production is not. His "concept" is that the opera is a fantasy in which a public schoolboy takes revenge on his cane-wielding teachers and bullying schoolmates. Cue St Trinians schoolgirls and "teachers" in bondage gear. There's obviously a problem in finding a visual equivalent for the heroic world of the opera but Carsen's interpretation is both distracting and belittling. The production divided audiences but I'm with the Independent music critic who said it would be better enjoyed in the Proms concert performance without decor or costume. This DVD is therefrore a very mixed blessing.

(Revised version of earlier review)
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars COULD DO BETTER, 11 Aug 2012
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I hate it when producers shift times zones and this is the case. How can a tale of chivalry be transported to a school ?
The singing and playing and filming are all superb but if Handel was alive I don't think he would have liked girls dressed as boys in school uniforms wearing knight armour.
I couldn't watch it throughout but tended to dip in and out of it.
Call me a traditionalist but I'm glad I did not go to Glyndbourne to see the production and pay a high price. At £ 20.00 the price for the disc is reasonable.
Not good if you think this is how Rinaldo should look.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A First-Class 21st Century Rendition of great 18th Century Opera?, 4 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Handel: Rinaldo (Glyndebourne 2011) (Sonia Prina/ Varduhi Abrahamyan/ Tim Mead/ Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/ Robert Carsen/ Ottavio Dantone) (Opus Arte: OA1081D) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC] (DVD)
Well done Glyndebourne for staging Rinaldo 300 years after it was written for the London
stage. The fact that this aniversary was ignored by various so-called respected British
operatic companies just highlights British bourgeois indifference to almost all pre-
Mozart operas, resulting in artistic deprivation on a grand scale.

What a great surprise therefore, to be able to celebrate this operatic masterpiece, aided by a fine cast in modern dress, which, on the whole, works well even if at times the introduced comic elements tend to negate the opera's serious roots.

In many ways Rinaldo is a great introduction to Handel opera owing to a series of sublime arias and duets which highlight the glory of early 18th Century opera.

Despite the modern design of this production, the majesty of the music shines through, which just adds to the sense of 21st Century artistic homage to yet another much underrated operatic masterpiece. Everything considered then, a Four Star rating seems justified in regard to both performance and the price of the DVD.
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