Handel Pasticcio

Armida e Rinaldo
Operatic pasticcio based on works by George Frideric Handel
compiled by Thomas Hengelbrock

KATE LINDSEY  mezzo-soprano
STEVE DAVISLIM  tenor

BALTHASAR NEUMANN ENSEMBLE
THOMAS HENGELBROCK

 

Elaborate dramaturgy

Handel may have written forty-two operas, but Armida e Rinaldo was not one of them. This was the title that Thomas Hengelbrock gave to a mini-opera for two voices that he created by drawing on a number of other Handel operas. In doing so he was following a traditional practice, for musical pasticcios were extremely popular with Baroque composers and their audiences. The action is relegated to the recitatives, while the arias provide the characters with a chance to reflect on a particular emotional state. These were ideal conditions, allowing Thomas Hengelbrock to choose a selection of favourite pieces that were linked together by means of new recitatives.

The scenes, arias, duets and instrumental movements that Thomas Hengelbrock has combined together are drawn from six different music dramas by Handel. The title, Armida e Rinaldo, unites the names of the two protagonists from a popular operatic subject that not only Handel but countless other composers have explored. They are taken from what is arguably Handel’s best-known opera, Rinaldo. As a fictional couple, Armida and Rinaldo experience all of the emotions of being in love: longing, passion, jealousy and despair.

„A pasticcio sounds appetizing because it is Italian and means “pudding” but it also has something to do with a jumble or hotchpotch. The result can be enchanting, notably when Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann Ensemble adopted this practice at the Prinzregententheater. Built round the orchestra, the sets were dominated by the two soloists: Steve Davislim, with his full-toned tenor, and Kate Lindsey, who sang at least as magnificently and who began by offering a mischievous interpretation of her character, but then she sat down on a chair and sang the famous aria Lascia ch’io pianga with such tranquil beauty that it took the breath away. But mischievousness was ultimately to triumph: for the final duet, Il vostro maggio from Handel’s Rinaldo, Davislim clattered on to the stage wearing a kind of Spanish Hawaiian shirt and brandishing a pair of castanets. The music died away. For a few moments tension filled the air. Then tremendous applause.“ Süddeutsche Zeitung