hit counter

Minnesota Opera’s finely sung “Rinaldo” opens the new Luminary Arts Center

Georg Friedrich Handel was the catchy tune master of the Baroque. Take the Minnesota Opera’s new production of his opera Rinaldo as proof. It teems with loving laments of love and resignation, which give way to fast, funny and contentious duets.

And fun is a beautiful description of this production, which transports a history of the Crusades to 1980s Wall Street and turns what was once Christian propaganda of the early 18th century into a tongue-in-cheek commentary on capitalism.

Full of imaginative costume and staging ideas, it is also delicately sung and acted, and that is clearly evident in Minnesota Opera’s new North Loop venue, the Luminary Arts Center.

Formerly known as the Lab Theater and Guthrie Lab, it has always been a spacious, three-story subterranean square of space that clearly began as a riverside warehouse. As a performance space, it’s a classic black box, or more specifically, a brick box, with an audience on pedestals looking down at the down-to-earth performers. With 224 seats, it is intimate without exception.

It turned out to be a beautiful setting for this “Rinaldo”. Not only do these heartbreaking arias work particularly well up close, but it’s possible to admire the details of Tyler M. Holland’s wild, wonderful costumes, and also admire how much the singers inhabit characters that might be caricatures in less subtle hands .

Giacomo Rossi’s libretto is all about love in the midst of war, with sorcerers and psychics helping each side in a tale between Christians and Moors at the time. In the Minnesota Opera’s version – director Mo Zhou’s brainchild – old money battles new, as the aristocracy in goofy suits tries to swallow or merge with a successful startup, with leaders dressed in pointed-shouldered, flame-embellished leather jackets and Dress bodices and codpieces.

But at heart, Rinaldo is a love story in which a hero who wants to marry into a family business sees his beloved kidnapped by the enemy. As he sets out to rescue him, he and his fiancée win the hearts of their rivals’ leaders, largely thanks to Handel’s lovely arias. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a high point, this time on the trading floor.

Unless you are used to baroque operas – and not many are performed here – they are usually written for high rather than low voices. So our Rinaldo is a countertenor, Patrick Terry. A University of Minnesota graduate aspiring to an international career, Terry proves to be a compelling protagonist with a powerful voice and an endearingly vulnerable stage persona.

Also in the upper registers is Christina Hazen as the head of the conventional company in the plaid suit, singing some beautiful dirges of her own and delivering them with a pure tone and a conflicted heart. But the loveliest solos come from soprano Symone Harcum as Rinaldo’s love interest Almirena, complete with a sad showstopper that stuck in my head hours after curtain went down.

Among this adaptation’s newly earned outlaws, both Keelyfutterer and Charles H. Eaton prove mightily memorable -futterer as a power-hungry wizard bent on seduction, and Eaton as a boastfully charismatic baritone with a versatile voice and hints of Freddie Mercury.

Conducted by Emily Senturia, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra does everything one could wish for with Handel’s magnificent score, eloquently capturing both its beauty and heart-pounding power, and setting the basis for a thoroughly entertaining opera.

Minnesota Opera’s Rinaldo

When: 19:30 Sat, 14:00 Sun, 19:30 Tue and 2 and 3 December.

Where: Luminary Arts Center, 700 N. 1st St., Mpls.

Tickets: $50-80, available at 612-333-6669 or mnopera.org.

Rob Hubbard is a classical music writer based in Twin Cities. Reach him at [email protected]

Leave a Comment