Rinaldo was the first Italian opera written for the London stage. A smash hit at its 1711 premiere, it catapulted the young Handel to fame and fortune. Clive Paget traces Handel’s journey to London and talks with Erin Helyard, Artistic Director of Pinchgut Opera, which is staging its first Handel opera with Rinaldo.

A painting of Rinaldo on a horse.
Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Armida as an archer aims at Rinaldo (1819–27); fresco, Casa Massimo, Rome, Italy. Image © Sailko, Wikimedia Commons

It’s not uncommon to find Handel depicted as an irascible, corpulent epicure, the darling of the House of Hanover and creator of regime-satisfying Protestant oratorios. But when he arrived as a 25-year-old composer in London in 1710, he was anything but. Hot off the back of the Venetian triumph of Agrippina, a...