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Rinaldo was advertised for 24 February 1711 at the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket. Report was that Handel had composed the opera in a fortnight. This may be so, since Handel, bent on a triumph, lifted much from his own previous winners in Italy, as also from the music of his Hamburg rival Reinhold Keiser, so that of all but forty numbers, only some dozen were original. The present recording, a more than commendable offering, with much-varied repeats of infectious vitality, follows Handel's cast specification, except that Goffredo (the original Godfrey of Bouillon) and Rinaldo have swapped sexes, with the Christian general now a male alto. Of the seven main characters in 1711, all but one was either female or a castrato. This may well have enchanted the contemporary audience, but the risk is monotony. It is with a sense of relief that one hears the pagan bass of James Rutherford as Argante king of Jerusalem at last bestride the stage [listen -- CD1 track 7, 0:00-1:30]. Indeed it must be confessed that those seeking to undermine the crusaders have quite the most exciting music. Armida as sorceress and queen of Damascus, is mistress of all the noisiest and most terrifying elements. She enters in an aerial car drawn by two dragons belching flame and smoke, and Inga Kilna makes the most of her malevolent appearance in a formidable spitfire aria [listen -- CD1 track 11, 0:00-1:09].

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Copyright © 18 June 2003 Robert Anderson, Egypt


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