Review: Rinaldo (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

| March 1, 2012 | 5 Comments

05. Elza van den Heever, RINALDO, DBR_8915 c. Dan Rest       
      
Rinaldo

Music by George Frideric Handel
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi 
with H. Bicket, conductor; F. Negrin, director
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr. (map)
thru March 24  |  tickets: $34-$234   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     



     
       

Understated finale to a gangbuster season!

     

18. Elza van den Heever, dancers, RINALDO, RST_2961 c. Dan Rest

    
Lyric Opera of Chicago presents
    
Rinaldo

Review by Katy Walsh 

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents George Frideric Handel’s Rinaldo, three acts performed in Italian.  It’s the Christians versus Saracens.  The prize is Jerusalem.  Goffredo leads the Christians. King Argante rules Jerusalem.  Goffredo promises Rinaldo that he can marry his daughter Almirena if they are successful in taking Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, Argante seeks help from his sorceress lover, Queen Armida of Damascus.  Armida gets the word from Hades that Rinaldo is the key to victory.  To distract Rinaldo in his quest, Armida kidnaps his fiancé and tries to seduce him. To complicate matters more, Argante falls for the captured Almirena.  Love and lust are spoiling the war in progress.  Rinaldo has a few walls to overcome for victory.

04. Luca Pisaroni, RINALDO DBR_8672 c. Dan RestThe final opera of the season doesn’t have the traditional pageantry of the Lyric’s hallmark.  (I’m still in awe over the amazing Aida spectacle.) Set and Costume Designer Louis Désiré goes for a contemporary look.  The backdrop is florescent walls of color.  The lights change from red to white, heightening the drama.  In the middle of the stage is a rocky pile of letters spelling out ‘Gerusalemme.‘  It’s slightly comical and completely distracting. (I was constantly trying to spell other words from the oversized letters.)  Into this fairly stark space, a sorceress rises from below stage.  Pieces from a piano drop from the ceiling.  There are pink, white, blue helium balloons and a framed hanging eye picture.  The visual is bizarre and clunky.  The piano elements come together in the showstopper scene in the second act.  But until then, the clever decision goes unrealized and confuses.  After the decadent looks of the other operas this season, Rinaldo is disappointing.  Lengthy scenes show singers planning and pantomiming their crusade.  For war times and the Lyric, it’s fairly dull.  There ARE serpents of fury!  Dancers are continually summoned as the flames of hell.  Choreographer Ana Yepes interjects stylish chorusline meets line dancing movements.  The aesthetic moments add some excitement.

This Handel opera is about high-pitched but exquisite music.  Within the seven principals, there are three countertenors, two sopranos and a contralto. The singing is beautiful but the testosterone days of Boris Godunov is missed.  Thank goodness for Luca Pisaroni (Argante) bringing his robust bass-baritone vocals for guy-guy interludes. 

12. David Daniels, Elza van den Heever, dancers, RINALDO DBR_9437 c. Dan Rest 14. Ryan Belongie, Iestyn Davies, Sonia Prina, RINALDO DBR_9809 c. Dan Rest
Iestyn Davies and Sonia Prina, RINALDO DBR_9115 c. Dan Rest 01. Elza van den Heever, Luca Pisaroni, RINALDO DBR_0023 c. Dan Rest 03. Julia Kleiter, David Daniels, RINALDO DBR_8561 c. Dan Rest
11. David Daniels, RINALDO DBR_9410 c. Dan Rest 09. Luca Pisaroni, Julia Kleiter, RINALDO DBR_9310 c. Dan Rest

Under the baton of Harry Bicket, the orchestra works double-time to actualize the complex score.  In the best scene of the show, a fiery Elza van den Heever (Armida) faces off with orchestra.  Van Den Heever is perfectly hell-has-no-fury-like-a woman-scorned in the unforgettable conclusion to the second act.  She is diva-licious!

To quote the gentleman behind me, ‘Rinaldo is my least favorite opera this season.’  But on a report card boasting primarily A+ and A’s, the 2011-2012 Lyric Opera season will be remembered by me as a dazzling extravaganza. 

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

Rinaldo continues through March 24th at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker  (map).  Tickets are $34-$234, and are available by phone (312-332-2244 ext 5600) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at LyricOpera.org(Running time: 3 hours 30 minutes, which includes two intermissions)

A scene from Lyric Opera's "Rinaldo" by George Frideric Handel. (photo credit: Dan Rest)

All photos by Dan Rest 


     

artists

lead roles 

David Daniels (Rinaldo); Julia Kleiter* (Almirena); Elza van den Heever* (Armida); Luca Pisaroni* (Argante); Sonia Prina* (Goffredo); Iestyn Davies* (Eustazio)

behind the scenes

Francisco Negrin (director); Harry Bicket (conductor); Louis Désiré* (set designer); Bruno Poet* (lighting); Michael Black (chorus master); Ana Yepes* (choreography); Dan Rest (photos)

* denotes Lyric debut

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Civic Opera House, Katy Walsh, Lyric Opera, Opera, Video, YouTube

Comments (5)

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  1. [...] #46.  Lyric Opera of Chicago presents George Frideric Handel’s Rinaldo, three acts performed in Italian.  It’s the Christians versus Saracens.  The prize is Jerusalem.  Goffredo leads the Christians. King Argante rules Jerusalem.  Goffredo promises Rinaldo that he can marry his daughter Almirena if they are successful in taking Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, Argante seeks help from his sorceress lover, Queen Armida of Damascus.  Armida gets the word from Hades that Rinaldo is the key to victory.  To distract Rinaldo in his quest, Armida kidnaps his fiancé and tries to seduce him. To complicate matters more, Argante falls for the captured Almirena.  Love and lust are spoiling the war in progress.  Rinaldo has a few walls to overcome for victory.  Check out the rest of my review at Chicago Theater Beat. [...]

  2. Lyric Fan says:

    A set designer and director owe it to the composer, the singers and the viewers (especially the young and neo opera viewers) to make it possible to follow the story line. Particularly if it is sung in a foreign language, the audience needs to be able to make sense of the story and the emotions being portrayed: “Why is that man so upset with the letter ‘A’?” To do otherwise is simply trying to make a name for yourself on the coat tails of the composer and the opera singers- a form of parasitism. I went to see Handel’s “Rinaldo”, but I saw Negrin’s “Abstractions” to the tunes of Handel!

    The singers and the dancers were superb! It’s too bad they were upstaged.

    I left early.

    • Katy says:

      I completely agree, Lyric Fan! I hope you left after the 2nd act and not the first act. The final scene in Act 2 was terrific!

  3. Marvin Wolfe says:

    In over 30 years as a subscriber to Lyric this my first time ever to attend a performance that was ruined by terrible stage design, terrible costumes and irrelevant stuff. A staged performance should add to the music. In this performance the lousy stage became a distraction from the excellent job done by the singers and orchestra.

    The dancers are hardly worth commenting on other than to say that the only thing worse than the dancing was the costumes they wore. Also since there are man dancers and there are woman dancers why would you want the men dancing in such a feminine attitude?

    Comment on lighting – Lyric should try and not put at the front of the stage something that prevents people in the first 20 rows from seeing anything almost up to below the knee. When the performers sang while lying on the floor were hidden from the audience sitting in the most expensive seats. The black structure on the floor at the front going the entire, probably to hide the lights needs to be changed.

    • ES says:

      Thank you for this review. The production was an embarrassment for the Lyric.
      The stage set, the costumes, stage direction and the appalling dancing all distracted from the music.

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