Rinaldo is the first opera that Handel specifically designed for an English stage, and in 1711 this pasticcio of previously composed arias as well as fresh music brought about the ultimate breakthrough for Italian opera in Britain. Three hundred years later, it hasn’t lost any of its charm, and a masterful live performance like this one can still make you hum its hit tunes for days.
Rinaldo is an opera by George Frideric Handel composed in 1711. It is the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill. The work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket on 24 February 1711. The story of love, battle and redemption set at the time of the First Crusade is loosely based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), and its staging involved many original and vivid effects. It was a great success with the public, despite negative reactions from literary critics hostile to the trend towards Italian entertainment in English theatres.
Handel composed the music for Rinaldo quickly. Much of it is borrowings and adaptations from operas and other works that Handel had composed during his long stay in Italy during 1706–10. In the years following the premiere, Handel frequently introduced new numbers, discarded others, and transposed parts to different voice ranges. Despite the lack of a standard edition, Rinaldo's spectacular vocal and orchestral passages make it one of Handel's greatest operas. Of its individual numbers, the soprano aria "Lascia ch'io pianga" has become a particular favourite and is a popular concert piece.