There was plenty of charming obsolescence on display at Lyric Opera’s performance of Handel’s Rinaldo last Sunday—and not just in the audience. Rinaldo features ancient instruments like harpsicord and theorbo, and lots of arias with embellished repetition (run time, nearly three and half hours). There’s also a politically incorrect First Crusade plot in which the Christians wallop the Saracens. It’s all served up in a minimalist, Euro-plastic production inspired by Flash Gordon.

Performed in Italian but written for an English audience, Rinaldo premiered in London in 1711 as a lavish spectacle, in a theater equipped with the latest technical wizardry. In that production, a poignant moment was punctuated by a flock of birds that buzzed the audience, and the sorceress at the center of the story (sung here by terrific young soprano Elza van den Heever) entered in a flying chariot pulled by fire-breathing dragons. Lyric audience education manager Jesse Gram, who’s giving the preperformance lectures (free with ticket, an hour before curtain), says that attending that show 300 years ago was akin to seeing Avatar in 3-D at Imax today.

But the most exotic feature of the original Rinaldo was the result of a technology that’s really, truly, gone obsolete. The title character and several supporting roles were created for castrati.