Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Handel opera these days is a very different affair from Handel oratorio. In operas by Handel you have no chorus, only the long line of arias, nearly all of them in "da capo," or ABA form.
With Handel you have one of the supreme melodists of all time; you can be sure of a knockout aria every few minutes. But those arias call for kinds of technique that are not common coin in our time.
Thus Monday night's Handel Festival performance of "Rinaldo" in the Kennedy Center did not travel consistently on the high plane of its predecessor, the oratorio, "Saul." Of its eight singers, four are entitled to the laurel wreaths that go to victors. To Benita Valente for her ineffable singing of "Lascia ch'io pianga," as well as for everything else she did, a wreath of gold leaves.
To Beverly Wolff in the title role, though she was singing music originally written for a celebrated castrate, equal amounts of gold leaf for the nobility of her "Cara sposa," one of Handel's supreme inspirations. And to Wolff, as to Valente, further praise for their sense of style.
Stephen Simon conducted with his usual Handelian skill, but there were splotchy moments in imprecision and attacks more than a few times. Martin Isepp played flawless harpsichord realizations.