Opera in Concert, HANDEL: Rinaldo

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Handel goes for baroque.

Quite popular in its day, baroque opera (1650-1750 or so) lost favor in the intervening centuries for many reasons: the absurdly complex plots (love triangles? try pentagons), the unreal characters (gods, heroes, noblemen) and static, highly stylized forms. Baroque operas consist almost entirely of recitative — semi-chanted monologues, lightly accompanied, describing the action of the plot — alternating with solo arias in which the characters share their feelings about whatever happened in the recitative. Choruses and duets are rare. But given an imaginative stage director and singers who can make the emotions throb and the vocal acrobatics glitter, these pieces can work beautifully. Handel's 1711 Rinaldo features more emphasis than usual on fairy tale elements (sorceresses, monsters, abductions) but is otherwise representative of the genre, with brilliant arias ranging from pathos-laden laments to stirring songs of martial triumph.