Rodelinda, Metropolitan Opera live relay, December 2011Posted on 4 December 2011
The Met first produced this Handel opera in the same production in 2004 with Renée Fleming in the title role. In this live cinema screening she took on the role again and gave a wonderful performance, showing the anguish of the queen who has apparently lost her husband Bertarido in battle, and is now wooed by Grimoaldo, the man who has taken over as ruler. Joseph Kaiser gave an excellent performance as this usurper, who is loved by Bertarido’s sister Eduige, but falls in love with Rodelinda.
The emotions are complex: desire, scheming, suffering and constant love, but everyone ends up happily ever after, except the nasty Garibaldo, confidante of Grimoaldo who is scheming to acquire the kingdom for himself. Shenyang sang strongly as this unpleasant character, showing him to be a cunning, emotionless power-seeker who over-reaches himself and is killed by Bertarido just as he is about to murder Grimoaldo.
Joseph Kaiser, who sang gloriously as Grimoaldo, amply demonstrated the insecurities of this would-be king, particularly in the face of Renée Fleming’s evident strength as Rodelinda, offering her own son as sacrifice, knowing full well that such a proposal will place the usurper in an impossible position. With Stephanie Blythe singing a very powerful Eduige, the two ladies in the cast had enough strength to carry the entire opera, but they were brilliantly backed up by the other performers. Apart from the tenor and bass parts (Grimoaldo and Garibaldo), there were originally two roles for alto castratos, sung here by Andreas Scholl as Bertarido, and Iestyn Davies as his confidante Unulfo. The latter moves seamlessly between the new court and his exiled master, who anxiously awaits an opportunity to regain power and be reunited with Rodelinda and their son. Iestyn Davies gave an incredible performance as Unulfo, singing as if this were his natural voice, and making the very capable Andreas Scholl sound an unnatural falsetto by comparison.
The conducting by Harry Bicket was a joy to hear. He gave a wonderful buzz to the overture, and continued to produce a fine clarity of sound, making the musicians of the Metropolitan opera sound like a baroque orchestra. It was he who conducted this opera when Stephen Wadsworth’s excellent production was new in 2004, the beautiful sets and costumes updating this story of a 7th century Lombard king to Handel’s time of the early eighteenth century.