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Frosting for hair

Aldenrinaldo1The David Alden production of Rinaldo at the Bavarian State Opera was not particularly well-attended, and at each intermission, people left. This was more pronounced for this production than for Rodelinda.

Part of the problem was the singers. None of them were particularly stunning. The lead, Ann Murray, has a voice that lacks substance and depth. Her high range is not bad, but her lower range does not project well. Sometimes she uses too much vibrato. She is no Ewa Podles.

Then there were the three mediocre countertenors, really more than any audience can bear. Dominique Visse (Goffredo) has a reedy, whiny voice. Axel Köhler (Eustazio) does not have good volume. Christopher Robson (Mago cristiano, Donna, Araldo) has a pretty voice when he is within his rather limited range. There were too many points in which they had these countertenors go into their actual voices, the effect was unpleasant.

Deborah York was not horrible as Almirena. Her voice is pretty, like a little bird's. At times it was difficult to hear her over the orchestra. The best singer was Veronica Cangemi as Armida. Her volume was always good, but her voice is not beautiful. But as the villain, this is perhaps not the detriment it would be otherwise. She acted well.

The costumes were a bit random. Rinaldo wore suits with fedoras and trench coats, very simple. Almirena wore a fifties style dress, crusader armor that she stripped off to reveal a cheerleader outfit, some strapless short gown that was billowed up on the right side to make her look like she was in motion, and a corset with a tulle skirt. Armida wore an asymmetrical gold dress, then a jade colored silk outfit that looked vaguely mughal (she also wore a bindi with this). But her last outfit was most strange: she wore a huge gold mask, perhaps Southeast Asian in style; long golden claws; a gold corset; and a black poodle skirt with a gold dragon instead of the poodle.

Best of all, the sirens had frosting for hair. They looked a bit like cupcakes. Though the Mago cristiano wore stilts and a huge hat with many long spongy points.

The production was atrocious. The first scene had a larger than life-sized plastic Jesus statue, the last scene had innumerable small plastic Jesus statues lined up all across the stage. The worst was the giant plastic doll, one story tall. It was a school boy, wearing a blue hat, red tie, yellow sweater, red shorts, gray socks and black shoes. He had a spring for a neck and first appeared in Act II, scene iv. He just moved about the stage, and then his shorts fell down for some reason that is rather unclear to me. There was some tentative booing at this point.

There are many good arias in Rinaldo, but most of them seem to be in Act I. Act III is a mess, dramatically much happens, but there does not seem to be enough music to sustain this, the act is a mere 40 minutes long. The finale is brief, simply light and twinkling. As a whole, the opera did not have balance.