O gran Rinaldo

O gran Rinaldo

Rinaldo was on the Arts Channel on Monday and Tuesday nights. The director – as for last week’s Ariodante – was David Alden. Very odd, the things this man comes up with. It was all quite enjoyable, really: bright colours and silly costumes and David Daniels injuring himself on furniture. Not sure I picked up on all the darker significance of it all, but then again, I’m not sure there necessarily was any. Apparently he styled the main set – the Crusaders’ HQ – after a Tel Aviv airport hotel he was stranded in for a few days in the 50s, and the conceit worked well I think. And the neon-lit backdrop for Armida’s ‘Gerusalemme’ nightclub was fabulous.

David Daniels sang the title role – flawlessly, naturally. ‘Cara sposa, amante cara, dove sei?’ was incredible; his comic talents aren’t too shabby either. His fiancée Almirena was Deborah York, who was fine but could, I’m certain, have been much much better. She had flashes of brilliance, and she coped wonderfully with the vocal and physical demands of the part (singing ‘Combatti da forte’ while cheerleading, for instane) but it was none of it very interesting. She threw off line after line of coloratura, but close your eyes and it could be anybody. And ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ was just one big missed opportunity – with some weirdly optimistic ornaments. The Noemi only other woman in the piece, however, was pure magic. Noemi Nadelmann (see left) made the most beautiful and electrifying Armida you could wish for. Her legs alone might have stolen the show, were it not for her singing: she sounded as fabulous as she looked, if not more so. Her vengeful coloratura was sheer brilliance; her lamenting and confusion over Rinaldo was meltingly gorgeous.

In this Rinaldo we had Armida under attack from a small army of crusading countertenors (I know what that’s like..) – apart from David Daniels, we had David Walker and Axel Köhler as Goffredo and Eustazio respectively, along with Charles Maxwell, who sang both the Magician and ‘Una donna’. They all were very good. But goodness me: four countertenors at once?! Variety is, after all, the spice of life: it might have been nice to put a contralto in there somewhere. Bernarda Fink sings Goffredo on the Decca studio recording I have; La Signora Francesca Vanini Boschi originated the same role – so it’s not without precedent. Then again, I very much liked David Walker, who’s not only a great singer but also a hilarious comic actor. But in any case, it was really quite a relief when Eglis Silins’ deep dark Argante arrived on the scene: not the most beautiful singing but such a nice contrast. And in the end, I got used to the Countertenor Mafia (they were in gangster costumes); David Daniels was unquestionably the finest of them, of course – this proved to me for once and for all how much he deserves his star status. Had it not been for the to-die-for Armida, he would definitely have been my favourite.

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