Rodelinda, Glyndebourne Festival

3.00

A queen ready for her close-up

She still looks as though she might have stepped out of an Erich von Stroheim film. She has the body language (and the frocks) of a Norma Desmond. Every gesture, every look is primed for the camera. She's ready for her close-ups. But this star of the silent screen likes to make herself heard. How paradoxical is that? She sings Handel. And she sings it extremely well.

She still looks as though she might have stepped out of an Erich von Stroheim film. She has the body language (and the frocks) of a Norma Desmond. Every gesture, every look is primed for the camera. She's ready for her close-ups. But this star of the silent screen likes to make herself heard. How paradoxical is that? She sings Handel. And she sings it extremely well.

Emma Bell is back at Glyndebourne to reprise the role of Rodelinda in Jean-Marie Villegier's highly cinematic staging. She looks fabulous (haute couture of the Twenties by Patrice Cauchetier); she sounds even better. All that was impressive about her Glyndebourne debut back in 1998 has now matured and been marinated to an exceptionally high level of accomplishment. The voice is ample and true, the sound consistently beautiful. But what really connects with her audience is the depth and the range of the expression. Whether concentrated into a mere thread of sound - the pinpoint crescendo at the start of "Ombre, piante, urne funeste" - or unleashed with blistering force in the imperious coloratura, she dominates the evening with her emotional truth. A living, breathing heroine - not just another drama-queen.

In that sense she is slightly at odds with Villegier's production. I have to say it's growing rather thin with reacquaintance. Yes, it was a smart idea to begin with - the baroque opera style has much in common with the screen silents; the surtitles double well as captions. But it is just a context. It doesn't dig much deeper than that. As for humour, Villegier gets plenty of mileage from false exits in the arias with characters reappearing as if to say: "And another thing...!" But otherwise, cosmetic is probably the word. Sepia silks and satins set against monochrome backdrops, and very moodily, very discreetly lit. Perhaps we should dub the original lighting designer (Bruno Boyer) "the prince of darkness". "The lightless air hides everything from view," the opera's hero comments in the dungeon scene of the final act. Too right.

But that brings me to the other star performance of the evening: Marijana Mijanovic as Bertarido, the deposed King of Lombardy, a role hitherto sung by male altos in this production. Bertarido's chaste and very famous entrance aria "Dove sei" brought forth yearning legato and exquisitely turned trills from Mijanovic - singing with a reach way beyond the sound itself. It's true that her rather soft-grained voice didn't really have the heroic thrust for the climactic "Vivi tiranno" but the rhythmic imperative of her bristling coloratura brought its own kind of excitement.

We shouldn't, of course, be overly conscious of the vocal callisthenics. And we were, alas, in the case of Timothy Robinson's Grimoaldo. His coloratura work was very clunky indeed. Nor did the top of his voice ring as cleanly or as pleasingly as it generally does. Focus was conspicuous by its absence from Paul Gay and Jean Rigby's singing, too. Gay (Garibaldo) is asked to puff on a cigarette through his most strenuous aria so you might ask if we've any right to expect better in the circumstances. Rigby (Eduige) still sounds plummy and occluded, indistinct, in the middle of the voice.

Nothing indistinct about the playing of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Emmanuelle Haim. It's a little too angular for my liking; but where our hero and heroine come together in perfect harmony for their great duet in Act Two, time and space and tempo all fade into blissful irrelevance. Where would this silent movie be without its soundtrack?

Further performances: 25 & 30 June, 6, 9, 18, 23, 25, 28 & 31 July (01273 813813; www.glyndebourne.com)

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London