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Georg Friedrich Händel 1685–1759

Dramma per musica in three acts
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi, scenario Aaron Hill
World premiere, 1st edition, February 24 1711, Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London
1st performance of this production September 16 2017

Sung in Italian with German surtitles
Introductory talk, in German, in the Bockenheimer Depot half an hour before performances begin

General Goffredo reminds the warrior Rinaldo and his troops that the path to glory is difficult, demanding much personal sacrifice. Before Goffredo will consent to the marriage between his daughter Almirena and Rinaldo, Rinaldo must first beat their enemy King Argante, in battle. This postponement is hard for Rinaldo to bear. Argante arrives in the camp to ask for a three day ceasefire. Goffredo grants this request, adding that he fears nothing from Argante or his army, because virtue is on his side. Argante's lover, the sorceress Armida, appears with her Furies. She tells Argante about a prophesy she received that Rinaldo must be eliminated in order to defeat his army. She hatches a plot to lure the warrior away from his troops. Almirena, wandering in an enchanted forest, is met by her love, Rinaldo. Armida uses this moment to violently abduct Almirena. Rinaldo is heartbroken that his love has been so cruelly taken. Goffredo and his brother Eustazio convince Rinaldo that he must be strong and attack Armida. Act 2 Rinaldo, Goffredo and the army climb a steep cliff to reach Armida's realm. At the summit they encounter a magical lake, where Sirens lure Rinaldo, promising to lead him to Almirena. He follows them, taking no heed of Goffredo and Eustazio's words of caution. The imprisoned Almirena bemoans her fate, which moves Argante. He admits his love for her but says he cannot set her free while she is under Armida's control. Armida, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Rinaldo, who rejects her. When she transforms herself into Almirena, Rinaldo sees through her deception and turns away from her in disgust. Armida is overwhelmed by her emotions. Argante approaches – confessing his love for the false Almirena. Armida explodes in fury. Act 3 Armida moves to kill Almirena. Rinaldo begs her to be merciful and Goffredo's troops free the lovers just in time. Armida disappears. Almirena urges Rinaldo to keep fighting so that they can be together at last. Armida and Argante make up after a long argument and prepare themselves for battle. Rinaldo, for whom Almirena has again pledged her love, is determined to return from war victorious.

Magical creatures waft across the stage like smoke. Brave warriors search for firm ground under their feet. Rinaldo's footsteps into battle are hesitant, love holds him back and makes him doubt his task. He resists temptations in a magical realm and drives the Amazon Armida to distraction. George Frideric Handel's opera knew how to tell adventures, describe love's confusions, sing of deepest sadness and sweetest rapture. Arias like »Lascia ch'io pianga«, »Cara sposa« and »Ah, crudel« are some of the most gripping portraits of emotions this composer wrote, embedded in richly coloured intrumentation and richly constrasting dramaturgy. The original score called for live birds, flying chariots, fire breathing dragons and roaring waterfalls, promising baroque spectacle par excellence. Ted Huffmann's enormously successful production brought this magical story to life with thought-through direction and very few theatrical means, »conjuring up« a world from almost nothing. The singers and dancers create the architecture with their bodies on an empty, raked stage. The choreographer Adam Weinert integrated elements of baroque dance with contemporary movements, making the emotional power of Handel's music physically tangible.