Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Lindsay in the Organ Room at Glyndebourne, where we saw Handel's Rinaldo. This production was intended to mark the first production of the opera, also Handel's first in England, in 1711, but unfortunately somebody decided to be clever and pretend that the plot, originally about the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, should be the dream of a 1920s schoolboy asked to write an essay on whether the First Crusade was a political or a religious exercise. That sche is set while overture plays, and in the opera itself the schoolboy becomes the Christian hero Rinaldo, in love with Almirena, a schoolgirl/daughter of Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the Crusade. The wicked sorceress Queen of Damascus, accomplice of Argante, the Saracen king of Jerusalem, is a rubber-suited mistress wielding the cane over a troop of furies/short skirted schoolgirls, and the Christian troops are Rinaldo's form-mates. Why muck about with the original idea of Aaron Hill, the 24-year old impresario who collaborated with Handel to devise the plot of Rinaldo, itself only loosely based on Torquato Tasso's poem Geruslamme Liberata? Surely a 300th anniversary celebration should be faithful to the original, but fortunately the music speaks for itself, as Chi-chi Nwanoku, who plays the double bass on an instrument which itself is over 300 years old, said to us behind the scenes. She took us onto the stage before the performance began, and invited me to sing a note, which I did, so that I can say it was my first return to the operatic stage for 79 years, since I played the baby in Madam Butterfly in 1932. Yes, the music is sublime, and children should be introduced to Handel as part of the school curriculum. Handel operas and oratorios should be played over the loudspeakers at Underground stations, though only if the quality of the sound were enormously improved.
Of course, I wouldn't only play Handel to Underground travellers. They should have Bach as well - the sarabande from cello suite No 5 on a rainy day, perhaps, or how about the cantata Erschallet, ihr Lieder (BWV172) to cheer everybody up?