Theatre Review: Rinaldo, Empire Theatre, Liverpool starring Jake Arditti & Anna Devin

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Rinaldo

Format: Opera
Genre: Comedy Drama
Writer: Robert Carson
Cast: Jake Arditti, Anna Devin, James Hall, Jacquelyn Stucker & Aubrey Allicock
Review Date: November 22 2019
Performances: November 22 2019, 7.15pm
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 200 Minutes incl. two intervals
Age Rating: 10+

The second operatic offering from Glyndebourne Tour at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre this week following L’elisir D’amore (with Rigoletto still to come tonight), Rinaldo is a larger and more significant production, with a large cast, a story that intertwines several plot strands, and some very commendable performances.

Synopsis

Right from the start, we meet the central character Rinaldo (Jake Arditti), who is in a classroom as he makes clear his love for Almirena (Anna Devin). Some straight-up bullying from fellow students leads to Rinaldo being saved by Goffredo (James Hall) and his Crusader army, who have Rinaldo amongst their ranks as they seek to lay siege to the holy city of Jerusalem. Rinaldo’s desires to be with Almirena are treated as something of an wanted distraction by his fellow comrades, but it is this passion and desire to succeed that ultimately provide Rinaldo with the greatest motivation to fight.

Especially considering the wicked nature of Armida (Jacquelyn Stucker) and her team of like-minded battlers, who are determined to remain in charge, and a short-term truce is agreed between Armida and Goffredo. This, though, merely allows Armida to convince Argante (Aubrey Allicock) that, if he wishes to obtain her own romantic interest, Rinaldo has to be killed, and they are well aware that the key towards weakening Rinaldo is to take away Almirena.

An extended outdoor scene sees Rinaldo and Almirena meet, where it is clear that they are instantly in love. But before their relationship can go any further, disaster strikes as Armida and friends capture Almirena and take her away, leaving Rinaldo heartbroken. Goffredo and his merry men are similarly devastated at Rinaldo’s plight, but they maintain the strength to plan an attack upon Armida that will not only seize control of Jerusalem as per their main intentions, but to also to reunite the two budding lovers.

Analysis

The story takes its sweet time to develop, and the running time as a whole will not be to everybody’s tastes. Ultimately, though, it succeeds because the plot has numerous twists and turns to maintain one’s interest. Although Rinaldo’s wishes to be with Almirena are key, we actually do not see that much of Almirena throughout the story, even if we are reminded (at times in a surreal and amusing manner) that Rinaldo simply cannot function unless he is reunited with her. Indeed, it is Rinaldo (as the name of the show suggests) who is far and away the most present on stage, and it is his performance that is the main takeaway. His acting is always believable, but it is his singing that truly shines, reaching octave levels that have to be heard to be believed. He also has a flair for demonstrating some understated comedic talents when called upon.

On that note, while the main focus of the story is one of drama and romantic struggle, there is a good amount of humour to be found, particularly when we work towards the finale. One extended scene within the garden of Armida’s palace creates some scenes that had the audience laughing out loud, and the very last battle between the two sides, without providing any spoilers, is cleverly written considering the attempt to bring this 18th century tale into modern times based on a connection relating to the name of the lead character (I’ll let you have a think about that).

The orchestra is as good as ever, delivering the exact right music for a particular scene, ranging from fast-paced adrenaline to heart-wrenching tragedy. The performers as a whole are a highly talented bunch, and it is a massive endeavour for the cast to pull this show off considering its length. From a production standpoint, we again have the English subtitles above the stage which always helps, and the settings are kept very simple but are also highly effective in having us feel like we are right at the heart of this major clash for power in Jerusalem.

Summary

Opera fans will really enjoy Rinaldo. It covers everything that they would want from this classic tale, as well as throwing in some nice surprises to keep things somewhat unpredictable. Simply put, if you love opera, you will love Glyndebourne Tour’s version of Rinaldo.

Notes

Target Audience: Adults Aged 50+
Content: 1/5 – Infrequent Mild Innuendo
Recommendation?: Yes
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent

Glyndebourne Tour are bringing Rigoletto to the Empire Theatre this evening, on Saturday November 23. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 871 3017.