For the first time in modern times, Festival della Valle d'Itria stages the Neapolitan version of Händel's Rinaldo, a pastiche with a Mediterranean allure which Leonardo Leo assembled in 1718 and which was considered lost until a few years ago. The story behind this most rare opera is captivating: the score of Händel’s masterpiece was illegally brought to Naples by the castrato singer Nicolò Grimaldi, who first interpreted Rinaldo in London. Once in Italy, the work was rehashed by Leo as well as other local composers, who adapted it to the taste of the local Neapolitan public, adding some intermezzos and amusing characters.
Director Giorgio Sangati turns this work into a “ba-rock” opera set in the 1980’s, where the struggle between Christians and Turks becomes a battle between pop-rock singers (the Christians) and dark-metal ones (the Turks). These two factions represent two opposite perspectives on love and life.
Conductor Fabio Luisi is at the head of the baroque Ensemble La Scintilla, a group of specialists in the baroque repertoire.
With the collaboration of Naxos
Opera in three acts
Music by Georg Friederich Händel and Leonardo Leo
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi
Premiere Modern Times performance of the 1718 Naples version
Reconstruction and critical edition of the score by Giovanni Andrea Sechi
Orchestra La Scintilla
Conductor | Fabio Luisi
Stage director | Giorgio Sangati
Armida | Carmela Remigio
Goffredo | Francisco Fernández
Almirena | Loriana Castellano
Rinaldo | Teresa Iervolino
Argante | Francesca Ascioti
Eustazio | Dara Savinova
Lesbina | Valentina Cardinali
Nesso | Simone Tangolo
Araldo di Argante | Dielli Hoxha
A woman-shaped spirit | Kim Lillian Strebel
Christian magician | Ana Victória Pitts
Contrary to what usually occurs when great literature is adapted for an opera libretto, Antonio Salvi improved the Pierre Corneille play on which Haendel based his Rodelinda The tyrant Grimoaldo, who has usurped the throne of Lombardy, wants to marry the wife of the deposed King Bertarido. Everyone believes the former king is dead, but he had actually fled into exile and has secretly returned. Between her husband Bertarido and the “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” Grimoaldo, who seems to be a cruel tyrant, but is tormented by guilt for his crimes, is Rodelinda. She is at the centre of the story because all the characters want to legitimise their power by marrying her. Yet she remains completely faithful to her husband, despite the visceral strife of the aspirants to the throne, who want to use her for their own ends. Rodelinda is the most intelligent character, she understands the weaknesses of the others and manipulate them as part of her own strategy.
At the turning point of the story, Grimoaldo decides to abandon his betrothed Eduige and force Rodelinda to marry him to legalize his seizing of the throne. Rodelinda refuses and continues to mourn her husband Bertarido, whom she believes to be dead. But, aware that her position is precarious and that she will not be able to put Grimoaldo’s demands off for long, she decides to avoid a definite refusal. Instead, she imposes a condition which she knows will be unacceptable to his weak nature and will drive the mild-mannered tyrant into an anxiety attack. She will only marry him if he first murders her son Flavio with his own hands because - she tells him plainly - , she refuses to be both the wife of an usurper and the mother of the legitimate heir to the throne. She is a Clytemnestra who refuses to marry Aegisthus during Agamemnon’s absence, so that Flavio, if he should survive, would not become a new Orestes, or a Hamlet, who takes revenge on his mother for marrying his father’s killer. Rodelinda is a woman of excellent judgement, aware that her marriage to her husband’s usurper (and as far as she knows, murderer) cannot lead to anything good. She is also aware that Grimoaldo is a would-be tyrant who is scarcely able to conceal his true nature as a kind and reasonable provincial governor, pragmatic and charming. He falls well short of the Machiavellian skills needed to fulfil his ambitions.
The truly wicked character in the story is not Grimoaldo, who was able to seize power largely through luck and despite his weaknesses, but Garibaldo, Duke of Turin, who has all the Machiavellian qualities the other lacks. He is scheming to win the throne for himself, and is quite prepared to massacre the entire family in cold blood if necessary. Only the news that Bertarido is not dead can put a stop to his plans.
The story deals with a power struggle set within a family, in a community which is its own world, but which is also a metaphor for human nature itself. This led Claus Guth to set Rodelinda in a family home, the private retreat from the outside world. The most vulnerable resident is Flavio, Rodelinda’s son, he is treated as a pawn and is subjected to countless dangers.
One could almost say the main character in the opera is, in fact, this child, who does not sing, but is made to suffer by the terrible cruelty of all the others. It often seems as if the story was being told through the nightmares of young Flavio, whose mother is ready to use him to keep a despised suitor at bay, and if not, to have him killed so he will never grow up to understand the treachery around him and seek revenge. Those terrified eyes see the family home as a threatening space full of dangers, he intuits this without really understanding.
Rodelinda is one of Händel’s most extraordinary operas and it includes some of the composer’s most inspired passages. Its debut in Spain, in this new Teatro Real production, is a remarkable event.
(Joan Matabosch, Artistic Director of the Teatro Real)
Händel's musical genius and the fantastical story from Orlando furioso, the epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto that inspired the opera, made Alcina one of the most popular operas by the Saxon composer (alongside Ariodante and Orlando, which were also inspired by the same great literary work) performed in Covent Garden in 1735.
The story, which has echoes of Homer, features the sorceress Alcina, who draws the protagonists to her island to seduce them and turn them into part of the landscape; it shows Ruggiero and Bradamante's struggle to get rid of the evil witch, and continues to captivate audiences today with subtle metaphors on the illusions created by love and passion. In this adaptation by David Alden, who was making his début at the Teatro Real, Alcina's magical kingdom is the theatre itself, constructed with references to Hollywood, magazines and musical comedy. The seemingly happy ending when Ruggiero gets married to Bradamante in an entirely conventional way in a suburbs manages to inspire nostalgia for the theatrical world where the sorceress reigned.
It is ironic - and surely not coincidental - that the first great full-length opera in the English language was composed in 1743 by Handel, an emigré
German approaching the height of his powers, but in self-imposed retirement from the toxic London opera scene.
Semele was his defiant counter-blast to those who for years had sought to control him - the rival aristocratic theatre-owners and company directors.
Not surprisingly, Handel preferred to promote and organise his own annual concert season at Covent Garden free from interference, and with his own hand-picked soloists, orchestra and chorus. Semele caught his audience off balance: it was not a conventional Italian opera properly ‘staged’ (though it clearly was in Handel’s imagination and despite the presence of elaborate stage directions); nor was it a pious oratorio based on the Old Testament
tailored to the Lenten season. Far from it. Instead he chose a ‘profane’ story based on Ovid, in which gods and mortals operate on the same level, behaving badly and passionately but in ways that everyone - except the disgruntled audience of the time or, later, the sanctimonious Victorians - can relate to.
The Pittsburgh-born stage director presents at the Teatro Real his version of the Henry Purcell score with texts from the novel La niña blanca y los pájaros sin pies (The White Girl and the Birds without Feet) by the Nicaraguan writer Rosario Aguilar, and songs and hymns by Purcell with texts by Katherine Phillips, George Herbert, and other authors.
The production, with colourful set designing by Gronk and conducted by Teodor Currentzis leading his ensemble MusicAeterna, gives a voice to the women, both indigenous and colonisers, who were part of the Conquest of the Americas yet never appear in the chronicles and official accounts of the era.
Sellars skilfully adapts the evocative, allegorical world of magic described by the English composer as the perfect framework in which to give full rein to the deepest and most obscure human emotions, all from the female viewpoint which was always ignored.
The Franciscan monastery of Santo Toribio, located in the Cantabrian region of Liébana, in the foothills of the Picos de Europa, is one of the main holy places of Catholicism along with Rome, Santiago, Caravaca and Assisi and, like them, is an important centre of pilgrimage. The lignum crucis it houses is considered by the Church to be the largest surviving fragment of the cross of Jesus Christ. The monastery also houses works by Beatus of Liébana, author of the famous illuminated manuscripts of the Commentary on the Apocalypse. Every seven years, when the feast of Santo Toribio falls on a Sunday, as was the case in 2017, the Lebaniego Jubilee Year is celebrated, which includes a multitude of cultural initiatives. One of these was this special concert in celebration of the Jubilee Year which was held on 13 July of that year with the sponsorship of Viesgo.
The concert was performed by the Camerata Viesgo under the direction of Maestro Péter Csaba. The programme consisted of a journey through the instrumental music of the 18th century. The second of Arcangelo Corelli's Concertos op. 6 was played, which became the birth certificate of a key musical form of the baroque period: the concerto grosso. By Georg Philipp Telemann, one of the many concertos he wrote in this form was performed. By Georg Friedrich Händel, an example of another of the most important musical forms of that period was included: the trio sonata. A sonata by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was also programmed, which already looks to a new time, the same one to which Father Antonio Soler opened the doors of the monastery of El Escorial in Madrid. One of Soler's masterpieces was heard: the Fandango for harpsichord. An interesting detail of this concert is that the works are arranged in reverse chronological order, starting with the post-baroque Soler and ending with the pioneering Corelli.
In keeping with his artistic path and a commitment to live music, Mark Morris always looks for the collaboration and contribution of the best artists of our time. In this production, he brings together sopranos Sarah-Jane Brandon and Elizabeth Watts, tenor James Gilchrist and bass Andrew Foster-Williams, accompanied by the Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real, to perform Händel’s lovely piece L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, conducted by Jane Glover. The production is divided into two acts, the choreography creates 32 scenes inspired by the paintings of William Blake.
A presence of group and choral structure predominate in this creation, characterised by vibrant, spontaneous movement. The journey travels from the melancholy at the outset to a contagious energy, where the community is more important than the individual, making the point that human beings are truly happy when they are part of something greater.
*Title available only in non-EU countries, with the exception of Spain
Wainrot said that creating a choreographic work with a theme like Messiah arose out of different needs, and at the premiere in Buenos Aires in 1999 he wrote in the programme: "I feel that, at the end of this millennium, being prominent protagonists of such a date and event, makes us in some way privileged witnesses and participants in the event. It may be a merely statistical date, but it undoubtedly has an emotional and mystical charge of the highest voltage. Messiah represents for me, at this special moment, a look at new and old utopias, a look inside ourselves, a need to listen to our intimate silences and to get closer to others, especially to those we love the most, to those who share our history and destiny and to those who were and are witnesses of so many joys and hardships. Creating Messiah has been a personal experience that moves me to be able to participate with everyone."
The work takes place in a wonderful atmosphere created by Carlos Gallardo's set and costumes, where everything is crystal clear, diaphanous as a sky - floor, backdrop, benches, costumes and the scenographic box that contains it - providing a perfect setting for the ballet.