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.