sun 07/06/2020

BBC Proms: Rinaldo, Glyndebourne Festival Opera | reviews, news & interviews

BBC Proms: Rinaldo, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

BBC Proms: Rinaldo, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Stunning singing marred by several whiffy jokes

Rinaldo (Sonia Prina), leather-clad Armida (Brenda Rae), and the source of so much hilarity, the whip

What was the audience on? They tittered when the bicycles came on, nearly cried when the whip was unleashed and virtually pissed themselves when the warring sides in Handel's crusader fantasy Rinaldo started fighting it out with hockey and lacrosse sticks (I know! Too-oo funny!). After last year's randy bunnies, Glyndebourne's Prom visits are fast becoming the nights to bury bad comedy.

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I think your last line said it all - you simply didn't get it. I have sat through too many performances of Handel performed 'authentically' which have felt either like a lecture in musical styles or a very long sit (or very often both). This felt like neither. Early Handel operas were (first and foremost) designed to be entertaining and that is exactly what this performance. The singing was superb (indeed, about as good as it gets in Handel operas). The orchestral playing and the dramaturgy were excellent, with even the extras appearing as they actually belonged in the opera. As for the conducting, I found that this was simply in keeping with the rest of the evening. I thought the third act war scene (played out, I think, as a football match) was very funny, brilliantly choreographed (as was all the performance) and make no apologies for laughing out loud. One final point. It is very difficult to stage an opera in the Royal Albert Hall, especially at the Proms. Many have tried and many have failed. So, congratulations to all responsible for last night's performance for showing exactly how to do it.

I'd completely echo Laurence's comments on this review - it was a fabulous evening which didn't drag for one moment. The orchestra was excellent, the singing divine and the staging for me fitted in extremely well to the RAH - I'd imagine it has been a very long time (if ever) since Sir Henry Wood has been stroked by a whip or had a football 'bounced' off his head. Having read other reviewers who saw the piece in situ at Glyndebourne, I can sympathise to a degree with those who say that such a light approach didn't work as well in East Sussex, but for me last night was a real highlight - I just wish the performance had been filmed.

I would add to my earlier comments that I have now listened to the whole performance again and I can find very little evidence for the criticisms of Ottavio Dantone. Indeed, I would urge anybody who has not heard this performance to listen to it on IPlayer, as performances this good do not come around very often.

And as for bird song - Handel did the same...except they released real birds into the auditorium back in 1711, which promptly dropped their payload all over the audience - so be grateful it was only recorded bird-song! The point is, it wasn't criminal.

But we're not living in 1711, Sarah. Back in 1711 they would have allowed me to talk, to boo (during performance), to eat a hog roast, to empty my bowels. Allow me to do all these things (ie, demote the import of the music with all the philosophical and salary implications that that entails for orchestra and conductor and promote audience comfort and commercial application) and I'll allow you to release your electric birds, Sarah.

The Audience got it.This reviewer clearly didn't. Wouldn't be the first time... I'm new to Opera, I was in the Hall, I'm now a convert as a result. So much beauty and so much fun. Brilliant production, thanks to Glyndebourne and thanks to Laurence Slater for your perceptive review.

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