Rinaldo Synopsis

The Story of George Frideric Handel's 1711 Opera

Handel in his own hand
Billy Reed/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Composer: George Frideric Handel

Premiered: February 24, 1711 - Queen's Theatre, London

Other Popular Opera Synopses:
Wagner's Tannhauser, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Verdi's Rigoletto, & Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Setting of Rinaldo:
Handel's Rinaldo takes place in the late 11th century Jerusalem during the first crusades.

The Story of Rinaldo

Rinaldo, ACT 1

With the Saracen King Argante and his troops confined within the walls of Jerusalem, Goffredo and his army of Crusaders are able to lay siege to the city. Goffredo brought his brother Eustazio, his daughter Almirena, and the knight Rinaldo with him to Jerusalem. Feeling that victory is imminent, Goffredo begins celebrating and Rinaldo proposes to the love of his life, Almirena. Goffredo agrees to give away his daughter once the city has officially fallen. Almirena is overjoyed with the thought of marrying Rinaldo and cannot wait for the ceremony to take place. She persuades Rinaldo into fighting even harder to ensure a quick victory. After Almirena leaves, a messenger announces the arrival of King Argante. Before he enters, Eustazio thinks the king is about to admit defeat. When the king makes his entrance, he strikes a deal with Goffredo to enact a three-day truce. After Goffredo leaves, Argante considers asking for help from the sorceress Armida who is the Queen of Damascus, and whom he loves. As he thinks about her, she arrives on a chariot made of fire. She tells him that he can win this war, but the only way this is possible is if he kills Rinaldo, which she says he has the power to do.

Within the garden among the birds, fountains, and beautiful flowers, Rinaldo and Almirena are enjoying each others company. Suddenly, Armida appears and abducts Almirena. Rinaldo quickly draws his sword to protect his love, but before he can fight, Armida and his lover vanish in a dark cloud of smoke. Rinaldo is nearly inconsolable. Goffredo and Eustazio rush into the garden to see what is wrong. They find a weeping Rinaldo who tells them what happened. The two men suggest he see a Christian magician who might possess the power to save Almirena. After agreeing to visit the magician, Rinaldo prays for strength.

Rinaldo, ACT 2

Goffredo, Eustazio, and Rinaldo set out to find the magician. As they approach the magician's lair near the sea shore, a beautiful woman calls out to the men from her boat. She promises them that she can take them to Almirena. Rinaldo is unsure about her promise but frantic to find his love, he starts running into the water as two nearby mermaids sing of love's delight. Goffredo and Eustazio try holding him back, but Rinaldo overpowers them and heads out to the boat. Once on board, the boat immediately sails off into the distance. Goffredo and Eustazio are angry and feel Rinaldo has abandoned their mission.

Back at Armida's palace, Almirena is distraught. Agrante finds Almirena in the garden and consoles her. Captivated by her beauty, he immediately falls in love with her. He tells her that he will prove it to her by securing her freedom despite incurring Armida's fury. At the same time, the siren in the boat brings Rinaldo in front of Armida. Rinaldo immediately demands her to set Almirena free. Armida is moved by Rinaldo's passion and falls in love with him. When Armida confesses her love for him, Rinaldo angrily rejects her. Armida transforms herself into Almirena out of Rinaldo's site, and when confronted by her, he suspects something isn't right and leaves. Armida returns to her own self, and though very upset by his rejection, she still has feelings for him. She decides to transform herself into Almirena again to try and win over Rinaldo. After taking on Almirena's looks, Armida crosses paths with Argante. Believing her to be the real Almirena, he reiterates his love for her and his promise to gain her freedom. Armida immediately changes her appearance back to normal and vows vengeance. Argante stands by his convictions and tells her he no longer needs her help. Armida leaves in a fit of rage.

Rinaldo, ACT 3

Within the magician's cavern, Goffredo and Eustazio learn that Armida is holding Almirena captive in her palace atop the mountain. Before the magician can tell them that they will need a special power to defeat the Queen, the two men quickly set off to climb the mountain. As they make their way up to her palace, they are met by fierce beasts who drive them back down the mountain. Goffredo and Eustazio go back to the magician's cave and receive magic wands that can overcome the Queen's powers. As they climb the mountain again, they are able to beat the monsters, but when they reach the palace gates, the palace disappears into thin air. Astonished by the sight, the men are unsure of what to do. Below them, a raging sea violently crashes its waves against the rocks. The men decide to continue climbing.

Armida, surrounded by a shield of spirits, is prepped and ready to kill Almirena. Rinaldo dashes into the garden to save his love. He swings his sword at Armida, but the spirits surrounding her come to her aid. Goffredo and Eustazio break into the garden. When their wands touch the garden walls, the garden immediately disappears. Everyone is left on an empty field with Jerusalem visible on the horizon. Armida tries to kill Almirena again, but Rinaldo is able to thwart her attack by striking her with his sword. Armida vanishes leaving Goffredo, Eustazio, Almirena, and Rinaldo alone to celebrate their reunion. With Jerusalem in the distance, Goffredo declares his next attack on the city will commence the following day.

Armida and Argante reconcile in the city, knowing that it will be under attack soon. After they prepare their troops, Goffredo's army marches into the city, and once the battle is over Goffredo's forces are victorious. Rinaldo captures Argante, while Eustazio captures Armida. Reunited in victory, Rinaldo and Almirena are joyous about their upcoming marriage. Armida realizes her defeat and breaks her wand, the source of her power. She and Argante accept Christianity, and Goffredo is quick to forgive them. Soon, everyone joins together in celebration of peace.