Pacific Opera Victoria artistic director Timothy Vernon says Handel’s Rinaldo made international stars out of his singers. Photo by David Cooper/courtesy POV

MONDAY FEATURE: POV Goes For Baroque

Handel’s most performed opera taken on in April by Victoria company

By Robert Moyes

Monday Magazine contributor

It was on the eve of his 26th birthday in 1711 when Handel wowed his new hometown of London with Rinaldo, an operatic extravaganza that made the German-born composer an overnight sensation.

It was destined to be the most frequently performed of Handel’s nearly 40 operas during his lifetime.

Rinaldo had incredible energy and spectacular production values, and was a wonderfully appealing and dramatic work,” says Timothy Vernon, artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria. “It was meant as a showcase … Handel even cherry-picked some of his pre-existing arias to add to the new ones – he had great aspirations as he introduced himself to a brand new audience.”

The opera takes place during the First Crusade, as a Christian army prepares to rescue Jerusalem by overthrowing its Saracen rulers. A love story emerges in the midst of war, combined with a fantastical subplot involving an evil sorceress and her shape-shifting machinations.

But most compelling of all is the extraordinary singing at the heart of Rinaldo.

“There’s an uninhibited virtuosity … an incredible flair and vivid emotionalism to the vocal lines,” explains Vernon. “Handel wrote really beautifully for the voice, and his singers were international stars.”

The roles originally performed by castrati are these days undertaken by fully intact countertenors, whose falsetto singing is similarly ravishing. “I first heard Andrey Nemzer [who plays Rinaldo] two years ago, and I determined then to engage him at the first opportunity,” declares Vernon. “All five lead singers are great.”

Baroque opera fell out of fashion nearly two centuries ago, and has only been substantially rediscovered in the last few decades. This will be the fourth Handel opera that POV has presented, and it comes with challenges. As written, Rinaldo occasionally calls for extravagant stagecraft such as flying dragons and mountains that appear and disappear – technical demands that exceed the budget of POV and the capacity of the Royal Theatre.

“We’ve come up with a way to make credible the opera’s bigger moments without using huge special effects,” Vernon says. “There will be a true sense of the work, but through suggestion rather than spelling it out,” he adds. “It just requires evoking the imagination of the audience.”

Rinaldo runs from April 19 to 29 at the Royal Theatre. For tickets, call 250-386-6121 or visit rmts.bc.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mathieu Poirier: Excitement builds for Victoria Beer Week

Tickets for March 6-14 celebration of all things crafty on sale now

The Music of Cream touring band more than a tribute act

Ginger Baker’s son Kofi, Clapton’s nephew Will joined by rock stalwarts for 50th anniversary tour

Actors asked to find a spirituality for new Belfry production

Playwright/director Tara Beagan’s The Ministry of Grace tells Indigenous tale of challenge, love

PERFECTLY POTABLE: Bold reds that make you stand up and take notice

Monday wine columnist Robert Moyes weighs in on a trio of fine reds and a yummy late harvest white

Powerful Russian folk trio makes triumphant return to city

Trio Voronezh back on Victoria stage for first time since appearing at Coupe Mondiale in 2013

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Winners announced for inaugural Victoria Arts Council/Monday poetry contest

More than 100 entries received in five categories

Canadian polar bears’ ‘ingenious’ survival seen in BBC Earth series

Film crews also go to Tofino to watch black bears snap up crabs under massive boulders

Spring author’s reading series kicks off early in Sidney

Sidney and Peninsula Literary Society hosting Yasuko Thanh and Carla Funk for Feb. 7 event

The winners of London Drugs’ 2019 Amateur Photographer of the Year contest are…

After more than 26,000 entries, the winners have been selected across Western Canada.

‘How to Train Your Dragon’ filmmaker Dean DeBlois among Canadian Oscar nominees

Multiple Oscar-nominated Canadian talents on Academy Award hopefuls list

Most Read