HomeLifestyleSwashbuckling and magical epic story brought to life
Swashbuckling and magical epic story brought to life
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Rinaldo Pinchgut Opera City Recital Hall, November 30 Reviewed by PETER McCALLUM ★★★★½ In this production of Handel’s early opera Rinaldo, Pinchgut Opera brings the 18th-century imagination vividly to life with outstanding young voices, genial humour and exquisite musical discernment.
Countertenor Jake Arditti sings Rinaldo with a voice that combines rounded velvety smoothness, flashing colour and agility. As the story’s impeccable young hero, his singing translated the character’s intrepid fearlessness of deed into gracefully shaped lines and roulades of swashbuckling notes delivered with insouciant panache.
Alexandra Oomens began the famous Lascia ch’io pianga with haunting quietness.Credit: Cassandra Hannagan
He and soprano Alexandra Oomens, as his crush Almirena, are ideally matched in vocal tone. Their duet in Part 1 was a delight for its sensuous intermingling of lightness and intensity. In the opera’s most well-known aria, Lascia ch’io pianga, in Part 2, Oomens began with haunting quietness, sustaining a pace of barely moving stillness through simplicity of line and transparent clarity of sound.
In more lively numbers she sang with bright tone, full of rich colour, and always with unerringly true pitch. Then there are the bad guys. Adrian Tamburini as Argante burst on stage in Scene 2 with a voice of barking ferocity and rough-hewn finish, but, in gentler moments, revealed a capacity to mould lines with dark polish.
As the Saracen sorceress Armida, Emma Pearson leapt out of hell, her usual stomping ground, with vivid drama and wild vocal swoops, her later arias revealing crimson tonal richness, setting her apart from Oomens’ purity as the story’s goody-two-shoes. Completing the quintet of principals was countertenor Randall Scotting as Almirena’s father, Goffredo, combining imposing presence and gentle voice. His singing was unforced, the lines emerging with elegant care.
As sirens, Bonnie de la Hunty and Olivia Payne beckoned Rinaldo to ruin with fresh voice and insinuating gesture. Louisa Muller’s direction interpreted the chivalric fantasy of the story with indulgent humour, preferring to focus on the characters’ human vulnerability.
Simone Romaniuk’s design, with lighting by Verity Hampson, created deceptive depth to the City Recital Hall’s concert stage through doors that concealed mysteries and surprises, and, at one point, opening to gorgeous floral excess.
Conducting from the harpsichord, Erin Helyard paced the work with instinct both for tempo aptness and for the dramatic moment, allowing flexibility for the singers to create gracefully free but not over-elaborate ornamentation. In one of the Part 2 arias, he took in his stride a hugely virtuosic harpsichord concertante accompaniment with surging waves of notes flooding from the keyboard, while the aria above unfolded with thoughtful poise.
The always-stylish Orchestra of the Antipodes was splendidly augmented with a quartet of radiant clamouring trumpets. The opera is drawn from Tasso’s 16th-century poem Jerusalem Delivered, and Muller, wisely, did not attempt to relate the East/West story to contemporary events, though in the final moment of forgiveness and in the splendid harmony of the final ensemble, the gap was a silent presence.
The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.