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Harmonia Mundi (USA Street Date: May 13, 2003)

A FanFaire 2003 CD GIVEAWAY

Vivica Genaux: Rinaldo CDIf you missed Vivica’s triumphant role debut as Rinaldo at the Festival de Montpellier or her performances at the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music last summer, there’s no reason why you should miss the CD – recorded by basically the same cast that performed at Innsbruck and now available at your favorite record store.

You will be treated to a sumptuous display not only of Vivica’s now famed, thrilling vocal heroics but also of her versatility – as she sings another vocally demanding “made-for-Vivica-castrato” role, one that runs the whole gamut of human emotion.

This beautifully packaged 3-CD set is a must-add to your CD collection.  An opera in 3 acts by George Frideric Handel, this recording featuring the Freiburger Barockorchester under the direction of the eminent master of Early Music, Reneé Jacobs, was a co-production of the l’Opéra National de Montpellier, the Innsbrucker Festwochen, and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin.

Jacobs’ soloists are mostly wonderful: Vivica Genaux is a vivid, involved hero, singing with great evenness, impressive tenderness in the yearning arias, and no fear of Handel’s fiercer music.”
- Robert Levine, Rating 9/10

Rinaldo was Handel’s first London opera. Hurriedly written mostly from arias and music he had previously composed, some say in the space of only 14 days, nevertheless it was an instant success. It is a spectacle of a love story with a happy ending, rather like a fairy tale – sprinkled with elements of magic, even including monsters and dragons.

The Christian hero Rinaldo loves Almirena (listen to an excerpt from their delightful DUET), but Armida the pagan queen and sorceress seeks to destroy Rinaldo and begins by abducting Almirena (listen to an excerpt from Rinaldo’s lament “Cara sposa”). Rinaldo comes to the rescue (listen to Rinaldo’s aria Venti turbini) but is intercepted by Armida who falls in love with the hero and tries to seduce him – in vain – by transforming herself into Almirena. Armida’s lover, Argante, in turn falls in love with Almirena but is repulsed (listen to Almirena’s melodious, heart-wrenching anguish “Lascia ch’io pianga”). Armida tries to kill Almirena but is saved by Rinaldo who tries to kill Armida but is saved by the Furies. In the end, the pagans are defeated in battle and virtue celebrated (listen to the final chorus celebrating virtue); the lovers are happily reunited, Armida and Argante either convert to Christianity (Handel’s earlier version) or descend to hell in a chariot.

All these to the tune of Handel’s magical music – with its elaborate orchestration and some of opera’s most melodious arias. René Jacobs and his top-rate ensemble of singers and orchestra players proved themselves equal to the task – leaving the audience at the Innsbruck Festival, and soon the listeners of this CD, nothing less than enchanted.

Read reviews of Rinaldo: PERFORMANCES      RECORDING

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