Rodelinda, Britten Theatre

Click to follow

Rodelinda Britten Theatre three stars Michael Church Transplanting Handel’s ‘Rodelinda’ from corrupt, fragmented, seventh-century Italy to corrupt, fragmented, twenty-first century Italy works neatly.

The plot focuses on a royal love-triangle – Bertarido has been violently deposed by Grimoaldo, who desires his wife Rodelinda – and the claustrophobic action takes place in a royal palace. To relocate it, as director/designer David Fielding has, to a seedy police station, where the usurping monarch is a paramilitary boss surrounded by gun-toting figures in fatigues, makes perfect sense. But the musical transplant is more challenging.

Handel wrote this opera as a vehicle for his favourite soprano Cuzzoni and his star castrato Senesino, who as Rodelinda and Bertarido became the toast of Haymarket; when the German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl used the Glyndebourne production of this opera as his personal launch-pad, a further bench-mark was set. Since this new production came under the auspices of the Royal College of Music, with fledgling singers at the start of their careers, it was inevitable that the burden of expectation should hang heavy. But it was clear from the start we had a first-class soprano in the title role, even if she took a while to reveal her vocal beauty, as opposed to mere aggressive heft. And while Eleanor Dennis has the look and manner of a grande tragedienne, Rosie Aldridge, who played Bertarido’s anguished sister Eduige, has a mezzo voice full of colour and mischief, and a presence which ensures we don’t take our eyes off her whenever she’s on stage.

If David Webb’s Grimoaldo came across initially as an amiable bumpkin rather than the driven character he should be, and if his coloratura took time to fix, he matured audibly as the evening progressed; baritone Samuel Evans made an ideal pantomime villain as the Machiavellian Garibaldo. And in Ben Williamson and Rupert Enticknap we got two very contrasting counter-tenors: the former took a while to control his fruity vibrato, but the latter sang with clean expressiveness throughout. Laurence Cummings and the London Handel Orchestra started out coarse-grained, but refined their sound - and moderated their tempi - as the ever-increasing beauty of the arias dictated. The weaknesses of this musically-sparky show lay in the direction, and the unintended comedy of its clumsy obsession with ‘psychology’, guns, and knives.Rodelinda Britten Theatre three stars Michael Church Transplanting Handel’s ‘Rodelinda’ from corrupt, fragmented, seventh-century Italy to corrupt, fragmented, twenty-first century Italy works neatly.

The plot focuses on a royal love-triangle – Bertarido has been violently deposed by Grimoaldo, who desires his wife Rodelinda – and the claustrophobic action takes place in a royal palace. To relocate it, as director/designer David Fielding has, to a seedy police station, where the usurping monarch is a paramilitary boss surrounded by gun-toting figures in fatigues, makes perfect sense. But the musical transplant is more challenging. Handel wrote this opera as a vehicle for his favourite soprano Cuzzoni and his star castrato Senesino, who as Rodelinda and Bertarido became the toast of Haymarket; when the German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl used the Glyndebourne production of this opera as his personal launch-pad, a further bench-mark was set.

Since this new production came under the auspices of the Royal College of Music, with fledgling singers at the start of their careers, it was inevitable that the burden of expectation should hang heavy. But it was clear from the start we had a first-class soprano in the title role, even if she took a while to reveal her vocal beauty, as opposed to mere aggressive heft. And while Eleanor Dennis has the look and manner of a grande tragedienne, Rosie Aldridge, who played Bertarido’s anguished sister Eduige, has a mezzo voice full of colour and mischief, and a presence which ensures we don’t take our eyes off her whenever she’s on stage. If David Webb’s Grimoaldo came across initially as an amiable bumpkin rather than the driven character he should be, and if his coloratura took time to fix, he matured audibly as the evening progressed; baritone Samuel Evans made an ideal pantomime villain as the Machiavellian Garibaldo. And in Ben Williamson and Rupert Enticknap we got two very contrasting counter-tenors: the former took a while to control his fruity vibrato, but the latter sang with clean expressiveness throughout. Laurence Cummings and the London Handel Orchestra started out coarse-grained, but refined their sound - and moderated their tempi - as the ever-increasing beauty of the arias dictated. The weaknesses of this musically-sparky show lay in the direction, and the unintended comedy of its clumsy obsession with ‘psychology’, guns, and knives.

Comments