[Met Performance] CID:275180
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Rinaldo {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/19/1984.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debuts: Samuel Ramey, Mario Bernardi, Frank Corsaro, Mark Negin, Eugene Collins
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 19, 1984
Metropolitan Opera Premiere


RINALDO {1}
Handel-A. Hill/Gia. Rossi

Rinaldo.................Marilyn Horne
Goffredo................Dano Raffanti
Almirena................Benita Valente
Argante.................Samuel Ramey [Debut]
Armida..................Edda Moser
Herald..................John Darrenkamp
Mermaid.................Diane Kesling
Christian Magician......Arthur Thompson
Acrobat.................Flip City
Musicians: Stephen Hammer, Ben Harms, Dennis Godburn

Conductor...............Mario Bernardi [Debut]

Production..............Frank Corsaro [Debut]
Designer................Mark Negin [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Eugene Collins [Debut]

Rinaldo received twenty-one performances this season.

This production of Rinaldo has been loaned to the Metropolitan Opera for its centennial season by the National Arts Centre of Canada "in deep appreciation of the many years during which Canadians have enjoyed opera from the Met - on tour, on radio and in New York."

Production gift of the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Fund

Review in The New York Times by Donal Henahan:

It was a night of important debuts, some long delayed, at the Metropolitan Opera. The most important and most delayed was that of George Frideric Handel, none of whose more than 40 operas had ever been produced by the company before his 273 year old "Rinaldo" found its way to the stage Thursday night. The production, borrowed almost intact from Canada's National Arts Center, might have astonished or perplexed him in some ways, but he probably would have found it as entertaining, ultimately, as most of the audience at this premiere obviously did.

Transporting a Handel opera from its Baroque setting to a modern house the size of the Met presents enormous problems, many of which this attractive production solves. The edition, edited by Martin Katz, was a conflation of Handel's several versions, expertly cut and trimmed to suit modern conditions.

Above all, however, Handel opera demands important voices capable of handling the breathtaking coloratura and exhausting repetitions that figure so greatly in the opera seria genre. The Met had Samuel Ramey, for one, making his first appearance with the company as the Saracen warrior Argante. Mr. Ramey, who sang for years at the New York City Opera without attracting the Metropolitan's attention, went off to Europe several seasons ago and that apparently gave him the credentials necessary to impress the Met's casting department. At any rate, he made a tremendous impression with his powerful, pliable bass voice, particularly at his dazzling first entry in a wonderfully Baroque chariot. After throwing a big, steely tone out into the house in that aria, "Sibilar gli angui d'Aletto," he opened the following scene with a dulcet "Vieni, o cara, a consolarmi," demonstrating his great vocal as well as expressive range.

As brilliant a success in her own gentle way was Benita Valente as Almirena. Miss Valente actually drew one of the night's most sustained ovations with her plaintive and affecting aria rejecting the Saracen's advances, "Lascia ch'io pianga."

Marilyn Home, in the title role, sounded a bit dry of throat and tired at first, but she warmed up for her vengeance aria to end Act I in a blaze of vocal pyrotechnics. On the whole, the evening did not find her in absolute top form, but Miss Home's second best is anybody else's triumph. She ran out of breath at times in the final act's grand battle aria, which would have severely tested the powers of a steam boiler. Handel seldom wrote one note where 10 or 20 would do. She also contributed one of the premiere's more apparent flubs when she made a false start at one point in the finale. The house broke out in laughter and Miss Home herself lost a desperate battle to keep a straight face.

Able, intermittently splendid performances also were turned in by Edda Moser (Armida), Dano Raffanti (Goffredo) and Diane Kesling (A Mermaid).

Along with technically polished singing, any Baroque opera needs spectacular stage effects if it is to come anywhere close to the spirit of that age of grand theatrical gestures. Mark Negin, making his debut as set and costume designer, provided a great deal of childish delight with a charming fire breathing dragon, a waterfall of plastic ribbons, towers that opened out to become gardens - and the other way around - and scenes that magically transformed themselves in clouds of fog.

Frank Corsaro, in another of the evening's delayed debuts, directed the action with his usual ingenuity, but wisely stayed out of the way while sheer heroic vocalism was the point. Because of the rigidity of Baroque conventions, he was often hard put to find ways to keep things looking lively as singers spun out their florid repetitions and da capo arias. After Argante took a couple of turns around the stage in his chariot to fill up the time between verses, for instance, the novelty of that device wore out.

Two other welcome debuts added to the evening's satisfactions. Mario Bernardi, who early this season conducted the City Opera's beguiling "Cendrillon" (also a Canadian import, you remember), led this "Rinaldo" with great verve as well as sensitive concern for the singers.

But the loudest cheers of the night went at last to the choreographer, Eugene Collins, and an incredibly nimble corps of tumbling warriors. On a night when vocal acrobatics held so much of the interest, the unnamed acrobats in the last act's battle scene were perfectly at home. It is not often that the ballet stops the show at the opera, but this was just such a phenomenon. Of course, some mightily florid singing was going on at the time, so the acrobatic effect was multiplied.


Photograph of Samuel Ramey as Argante in Rinaldo by Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera.



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