Rinaldo is loosely based on Torquato Tasso’s epic poem “Jerusalem Delivered”. As this was the first production of the opera in Israel in recent memory, one may claim that Rinaldo came back home to the Holy Land 305 years too late.
To the full credit of Handel and the production, it did not sound neither looked like a three centuries old opera. It could well be another successful musical, as much as a new production of West Side Story that was coincidentally premiered in the neighbouring Cameri Theatre on the same night.
Handel’s music is nothing short of brilliant: beautiful catchy melodies, gorgeous arias, fully explaining the immediate success of Rinaldo in London, in the days in which his listeners could not have familiarize themselves with the music beforehand through radio or recordings. The famous moving aria “Lascia ch’io pianga”, sung by Almirena in Act 2, is still a masterpiece, but not the only one.
Speaking about the music, one can hardly find a better interpreter than Andres Mustonen. His orchestra was swiped by his enthusiasm and his solo pieces with the violin were authentic and clear as crystal. By the way, the production of Rinaldo in Tel-Aviv was part of the annual “MustonenFest” Tallin – Tel-Aviv Music Festival.
The role of Rinaldo was sung, not exceptionally, by a female, the mezzo Monika-Evelyn Liiv, who was very loud and clear, but did not excel as an actress. The two sopranos have much more demanding roles, and both Helens were fantastic, better than anyone can expect: Helen Lokuta as Almirena and Helen Lepalaan as Armida. No doubt they stole the show. Their key performances in Act II made it the better one, with much more support from the audience, who was somewhat sleepy during Act I.
This beautiful production also owes it success to the excellent work of Stage Director William Relton who gave it a modern look, full with smart gimmicks and visual attractions.