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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)

Rodelinda

Anna Caterina Antonacci - Rodelinda
Louise Winter - Eduige
Andreas Scholl Bertarido
Umberto Chiummo - Garibaldo
Artur Stefanowicz - Unulfo
Kurt Streit - Grimoaldo
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/William Christie
Stage Director: Jean-Marie Villégier
Video format: PAL, 4:3 stereo. English subtitles
Rec: Live recording, June 1998, Glyndebourne Festival.
NVC ARTS 3984-23024-3 [202 min.]


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Set in the early 20th century, in the "silent movie era", this performance of Rodelinda, one of Handelís finest operas, was performed and filmed at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1998. Featuring a fine cast - including the excellent counter-tenor Andreas Scholl - this work is conducted by William Christie, who brings to Handelís music an excellent balance and energy.

First performed in 1725, this fine work was one of Handelís great successes. Performed thirty times, including revivals in 1726 and 1731, it even had one performance in Germany staged by George Philip Telemann. It is one of Handelís most popular operas, after Giulio Cesare and Serse.

The cast of this performance is quite good, though not all of the soloists are up to the music. Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci as Rodelinda sounds a bit hurried and uncomfortable at first, in the faster parts, and uses a lot of vibrato in an attempt to hide this. But as the opera moves on, she becomes more confident and ends up being one of the highlights of the performance. Andreas Scholl brings a brilliant presence to the stage when he sings his first aria in act I, and this continues through to the final scene. His excellent voice is very fitting for Handelian roles, and he performs with grace and energy. Scholl and Antonacci together are almost perfect, and the third act is sublime.

Umberto Chiummo as Garibaldo seems to have the same problem as Antonacci - in the early parts of the work, he is unconvincing, but, he too becomes brilliant as the performance moves on.

The acting is a bit annoying. Fitting with the "silent era" theme, the soloists are all in pancake make-up and red lipstick, expressing exaggerated emotions with arched eyebrows and overstated facial expressions. Sure, this fits with the theme, but it gets a bit too much. However, the recording is excellent, and the balance between the orchestra and singers is ideal.

While this recording starts out a bit bumpy, it is well worth the ride. The singers eventually become comfortable, and settle into their roles with a great deal of passion. Scholl and Antonacci are the highlights of this fine performance of one of Handelís greatest operas. A must have for Handel fans.
Kirk McElhearn


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