REVIEW: Rodelinda @ENO

Rodelinda

Handel

English National Opera

Caught in a power play that could break a marriage and steal a throne, can Rodelinda stay true to love?

Rodelinda is a dramatic tale of power, anguish and love. When Grimoaldo takes Bertarido’s throne, Bertarido flees abroad, leaving behind his grieving wife Rodelinda. The usurper tries to force Rodelinda to love him, but when the exiled king returns in disguise, everyone is put to the test.

One of Handel’s finest operas, Rodelinda is filled with intense drama told through ravishingly beautiful music. Director Richard Jones brings his distinctive theatrical imagination to this production, which sets Handel’s bitter political drama in a scuffed up Fascist Italy, panoptic, suspicious, intense and claustrophobic, this is a dark setting but illuminated with supreme performances and some delicious tongue in cheek moments of deconstructive humour.

Tattoo’s, honour, spying, scheming it’s all acted out with fun a lot of it from returner Matt Casey in the wordless  role as Rodelinda’s (adult) son Flavio.  There are moments when the funny po’mo  touches get in the way of the sublime music, but I suspect many folk would welcome the extra action during some of the more exquisite long arias. I just closed my eyes.

Rebecca Evans returns to the role and if anything is even better than she was in the 2014 production giving us conviction, power, vulnerability and that wonderful full toned voice of hers, effortlessly coping with some complex choreography while singing, also returning for this first revival is Susan Bickley’s who’s touch perfect performance of Eduige is superb all scheming beguiling charm along the with a slimy slippery Garibaldo from Neal Davies, what a deliciously wicked pair they make.  Then mean and horrible Grimoaldo, the debut performance from Juan Sancho delighted the audience and he showed the exacting brilliance of his voice as it rolled around the huge spaces of the coliseum.

Read the synopsis here.

Baroque-specialist conductor Christian Curnyn kept the orchestra under his control although without any fuss or bother, he kept the narrative tension bumping along well, and the music was fresh and engaging.

Tim Mead one of the UK’s finest countertenors, adding  Bertarido to his roster of ENO roles and brought us a smooth and ultra-refined performance which charmed me  and the youthful and utterly thrilling Christopher Lowrey gave us a heart-breakingly perfect  Unulfo, he transfixed me, gave this role real presence, engaging humor and I had a perfect Handel moment during his second aria.

Amanda Holden’s translation is lively and fun and the clear diction from the entire cast is supported splendidly by the concise choices of Holden’s word which gives a brevity and subtlety to Rodelinda which has lacked in other productions.    The staging is slightly changed from the 2014 and this gives it a slightly less claustrophobic air and allows some breathing space to the rather static action and there’s some fun stagecraft on display.

This is one of the best productions of Rodelinda I’ve seen and the strong Welsh contingent gives it a real Celtic flavour and strength, it’s a three and half hour thumper of a piece and might run over, but for me it could have gone on twice as long and got me all the way home to Brighton in state of Handelian Bliss.

Recommended.

ENO

London Collesium, St Martins Lane

Until November 15, 2017

For more info or to book tickets see the ENO website here: 

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