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4.6 out of 5 stars
Handel: Rinaldo
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on July 11, 2015
The first opera Handel composed for London in 1711. It is full of powerful singing. The Counter tenor is the star with a voice that will touch you. The music is full life. I owned an old LP version which was good but this version leaves it in the dust. A must for a true opera fan. It does not sound dated for a piece of music composed 300 years ago.
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on September 22, 2015
Beautiful music with excellent singers. The accompanying booklet was complete with the words in English.
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on October 17, 2016
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on October 26, 2015
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on September 16, 2013
The studio recording(s) are crisp and well balanced aurally. The voices are well suited to the demands of the roles.
The orchestral accompaniment is concise and full bodied. The thunder might have been more realistic.
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on April 14, 2012
This is one of best performances and recordings of Handel's opera Rinaldo. The singers are outstanding, and in particular D. Daniels and C. Bartoli should be noted.
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on February 15, 2013
This is a great cast and the result is a wonderful performance. Bartoli has not lost her charm. Highly recommended purchase.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 26, 2011
Having been uncomplimentary about Christopher Hogwood's forays into the early Classical epoque, I am more than happy to acknowledge his success here in the Fach that suits him and his theories.

This recording is certainly starrier and dramatically more involving than Jean-Clause Malgoire's earlier, pioneering version and it is hard to imagine a better assembly of voices in the major roles if want wants to avoid the pallid breathiness that afflicts some Baroque performances. These are, after all, generally large voices used to commanding an operatic stage and David Daniels' warm, agile counter-tenor represents the best compromise possible in an age mercifully devoid of castrati. He is capable of sustaining a long line in "Cara sposa" but also despatches "Venti, turbini" with élan.

I know from hearing her live that Bartoli's voice is not huge but of course she is a byword for vocal fireworks and affecting plangency - and she blends very well with Daniels. Her detractors accuse her of having only two modes: winsome, breathy pathos and gargling coloratura excess but I find that she is reasonably restrained here without being inert. I wonder how she might have fared as Armida but that speculation is otiose as we have the big, velvety yet flexible soprano of Luba Organasova singing that role very satisfactorily.

Gerald Finley injects a welcome, virile bravura into his mainly martial, blustery arias, Bernarda Fink deploys her gorgeous, mezzo affectingly as Goffredo and Bejun Mehta compensates for Daniel Taylor's dull performance of Eustazio - in any case, a dull role - by injecting life and vocal allure into his cameo as the Sorcerer.

Hogwood's musicians are accomplished and musical, despite the prevalence of the "squeezebox" effect which suits Handel and lends a period charm to this, his first Italian opera for London.
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HALL OF FAMEon October 21, 2005
It is instructive to remember that when Handel went to Italy in 1707 to further his studies of composition and to study Italian Opera, that Opera was only a century old. It had begun in Italy in the early seventeenth century and was beginning to spread to other cities and courts in Europe. Opera was still sung in Italian and continued in that language simply because the great singers were Italian and preferred singing in their own language. When the popular arias were published, they were usually done in translation and sold by the ton making the publishers, and sometimes the composers, a great deal of money.

While it is not exactly clear how and why Handel was brought to London, he soon made a name for himself with the smash hit "Rinaldo". This opera is a fantasy or fairy tale based upon the notion of the Crusade to take Jerusalem around 1100 AD as a duty of Christian faith. As in most operas, the plot is quite convoluted in order to provide the maximum opportunity for the various kinds of singing the great singers could provide. One of the interesting features of opera at this time was the notion of two contrasting styles. There was the brilliant singing of great virtuosity and then there was the slower singing of great emotion. Many people were a fan of one style or the other, and many singers specialized in one or the other. It was dazzle them or make them weep. The greatest singers could do both. This opera provides every lead character with opportunities for both styles of singing and says a lot about the quality of singers Handel had at his disposal.

Handel's operas were not sung for a long time because of another feature of Italian opera at this time: the castrati. Young boys who were brilliant singers (and remember singers were servants and often drawn from lower classes) prolonged their career by having their testicles destroyed in a variety of ways in order to keep puberty from ruining their brilliant voice. So, they not only continued to sing at the high register we nowadays associate with women (but were not so then), they also developed greater lung capacity and vocal skill. They were among the most popular and sought after singers of their time. They did not sing in falsetto like Frankie Valli, but in a very strong full voice.

In the 1920s, Handel's operas began to be revived with women singing the roles of the castrati and later a male voice we now call the counter-tenor developed. In the past few decades some very brilliant counter-tenors have come on the scene and one of the greatest, David Daniels, sings the role of Rinaldo on this recording. It is also interesting that not all male roles went to males. From the very first performance the role of the commander of the Christian forces, Goffredo, has been given to a woman and wonderfully sung by Bernarda Fink here.

So, what is the opera about? Goffredo is leading forces to take Jerusalem from the Muslims. He offers his daughter, Almirena (sung by the acclaimed Cecilia Bartoli) to Rinaldo if he will help them take the city. The Muslims are lead by Argante (the superb Gerald Finley) who uses the powers of his sorceress wife, Armida (the terrific Luba Orgonasova) to kidnap Almirena and later ensnare Rinaldo as he comes for his betrothed. In captivity, Rinaldo and Almirena sing forlornly. Armida is smitten with Rinaldo and takes on the form of Almirena to deceive Rinaldo, but he is not deceived. Argante goes after Almirena. Both hero and heroine resist the seductions. Armida again takes the form of Almirena to trap Argante in his betrayal of her.

Goffredo and his brother Eustazio (the fine Daniel Taylor) go to a Christian magician and receive magic wands with which they destroy the castle and free Rinaldo and Almirena. The fight between the forces is finally engaged and Rinaldo captures the city and wins the day. Argante and Armida flee, but are captured. She renounces her powers and they convert to the Christian faith. All ends with the usual ensemble singing about evil being defeated by virtue alone and happiness only coming to a heart with purpose.

Think about all the dramatic possibilities! Sorceress flying in the air, smoke, thunder (the thunder machines were terrific in 1711 and are used in this recording), lightning, destroying castles by magic, armies, horns, despair, pathos, heroism, and victory. The stagecraft was fantastic and was exploited to the hilt, although that is not available to us in this recording.

This is a fine opera and you will find much to enjoy. The disks come with a fine booklet that contains a good history of the opera and the libretto in Italian and English.

It was not for nothing that Beethoven called Handel the greatest composer who ever lived and that he would uncover his head and kneel down at his tomb.
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on November 19, 2006

Of George Frederick Handel of England, born Georg Friedrich Handel of Germany, an English critic wrote,"He did bestride our musical world like a Colossus." He was 18 when his Father died, thus allowing him to drop the Law mandated by his father, and turn to music which was his first love. After serving several apprenticeships in various places, including the Hamburg Opera, he went to Italy (1706), and for three years he absorbed Italian music, which powerfully influenced his own writing. It is not known for certain what prompted him to make London his home, but nevertheless, in 1720 he went there, and for 10 years contributed musically to England. And so the international German who wrote like an Italian became a naturalized Englishman in 1726, though he never lost his German accent.

The first opera Handel produced for London, and the first Italian opera specifically composed for London stage- was 'Rinaldo',which opened at the Queen's (later King's) Theatre in the Haymarket on Feb.24,1711. Giocomo Rossi wrote the libretto for 'Rinaldo' loosely based on episodes from Torquato's epic poem 'Gerusalemme liberta', a fantastically elaborated account of the First Crusade(1096-99) in which Tasso describes how Christian forces led by Godfrey of Bouillon captured the city of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Handel partially ensured the success of the music by drawing much of it from the best works he had written earlier in Italy. There is , however, plenty of freshly composed music in the score as well. Handel, taking advantage of the many skilled instrumentalists available in London, used a wide variety of them to create a wonderful range of orchestral color.

The emotional depth which this music brings to the characters is no less striking, and is especially apparent in the role of Armida (Luba Orgonasova) first of a line of Handelian sorceresses, whose propensity for evil is conquered by true love. Rinaldo's (David Daniels) own aria of lament in Act 1,'Cara Sposa', is even more intense, and who can sing this better than Daniels?This particular role suits him so well; not only does he sound good, he also projects the characterization of a true mercenary. Almarena's(Cecelia Bartoli) charm comes strongly to the fore in her birdsong aria 'Augelleti' and in 'Bel Piacere' which she sings at breakneck tempo; magnificently, of course! The aria (also sung by Almarena)'Lascia ch'io pianga' is a wonderful example of Handel's ability to convey a sense of despair with the simplest of means.

In addition to the singers mentioned above, there are several others of equal ability:Bernarda Fink as Goffredo-Daniel Taylor as Eustazio and Gerald Finley as Argante. If that line-up doesn't convince you to hear this recording, nothing well!
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