Armida

On Sunday night to Pinchgut’s production of Haydn’s Armida.

I’m on a bit of a frugality spree at present. Unless I missed it Sunday’s was the only performance where they opened the third level with C reserve (but still $90) seats.  Better deals have been available in previous years.

The story is perhaps not on a theme calculated to excite modern sympathies: it treats the struggle, mostly within Rinaldo, between the call of martial duty (he is a crusader) and the snares of erotic temptation (he is bewitched by the Saracen sorceress, Armida). How exactly this is resolved, at least as a matter of detail, remained a bit of a mystery to me in this production. Basically, as Rinaldo extricated himself from the spell, Almida, always manipulative, became more and more nasty and ghoul like. Rachelle Durkin was Almida; Leif Aruhn-Solen was Rinaldo. Janet Todd impressed as Almida’s offsider.

In the first act, perched high up on the side, I was a bit too close to the mechanism to really be taken in by the plot: it ended with a big duet for the principal pair though rather a lot of it homophonic in thirds and sixths. Drama picked up in the second act in which the finale, oddly enough, included a portent of Beethoven’s Ninth. The music and the production aligned dramatically in the last Act, where Rinaldo confronted Almida’s magic and destroyed the myrtle tree which was its source.  The last act, for me, was where, musically (though there had been good bits before) Haydn really pulled everything together/out of the hat.

The orchestra was great, despite mishaps in the oboe section from time to time.

I really enjoyed it.  If I were feeling richer I would definitely rock up again on Tuesday for the final performance, but some restraint needs to be exercised.

On the opening of this production it was announced that Antony Walker is stepping down as co-artistic director of Pinchgut. The writing has been on the wall for a while about this in terms of the publicity and the pattern of who does what and what works are chosen.   Usual things are said about Walker concentrating on his other commitments in Pittsburgh and Washington, but I can’t help thinking that Walker may have been elbowed aside just a bit by co-AD Erin Helyard, who now takes the helm on his own.

At a nearby Justin Hemmes establishment, Opera Australia was holding its 300-person 60th anniversary bash.  Minions encountered in Angel Place recounted that Taryn Fiebig was to sing “Mack the knife” as the assembled benefactors and bigwigs tucked into their dinners.  Heaven forfend that they should be put off their food by anything more typically operatic.

 

 

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