* Notes *
A new production of Rinaldo (Act II, Scene 3 pictured left, photograph by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago) concludes Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2011-2012 season. The Sunday matinée performance was nothing if not entertaining. Director Francisco Negrin created his own little circus within Handel's music, an internally consistent world whose elements all work together. The set, by Louis Désiré, involves a monolithic word scramble reading "Gerusalemme," glass panels that can be lit white or red, and an enormous piano-shaped box. Désiré's costumes are likewise striking and odd. Ana Yepes's choreography is amusing and was performed cleanly.
Harry Bicket conducted a rather dry performance from the orchestra. The keyboard solo from Jory Vinikour at the end of Act II was strong. Musically, one of the most interesting parts of the afternoon was during "Or la tromba," when the trumpet almost flubbed a note, but recovered magnificently.
Much of the singing was good, though not always historically informed. Iestyn Davies sounded bright as Eustazio, his fast notes lack deftness, but his timbre is pretty. Sonia Prina's vibrato was distracting at times, she tends to overdo the machismo for trouser roles, and her Goffredo was not an exception. She did rein in the bluster for "Sorge nel petto," which she sang nicely. The pleasant lightness of Luca Pisaroni's voice may not have been perfect for the wicked Argante, but his acting and movements were effective.
Elza van den Heever was a compelling Armida. Her voice is gorgeous and powerful, perhaps a tad heavy for Baroque repertoire. She had the meatiest role as far as direction was concerned, and certainly made the most of this. Julia Kleiter made for a cute, sweet Almirena, she started off sounding a bit breathy but improved as the performance progressed. In the title role, David Daniels also had a shaky start, especially at the beginning of "Cara sposa."
* Tattling *
The audience seemed engaged with the performance. There was some light talking in the dress circle, but not a lot of electronic noise.