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George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Rodelinda (excerpts)
Valda Wilson (soprano) – Rodelinda, Queen of Lombardy; Fiona Janes (mezzo) – Bertarido, Rodelinda’s husband, deposed King of Lombardy; John Longmuir (tenor) – Grimoaldo, Duke of Benevento, usurper of Bertarido’s throne; Liane Keegan (mezzo) – Eduige, Bertarido’s sister, bethrothed to Grimoaldo; Lorina Gore (soprano) – Unulfo, Bertarido’s friend, councellor to Grimoaldo; Michael Lewis (baritone) – Garibaldo, Duke of Turin, counsellor to Grimoaldo
Sydney Lyric Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. live, City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, 20 October 2012
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
ABC CLASSICS 4810987 [72:16]

Rodelinda belongs to the same period as Giulio Cesare and Tamerlano in the mid-1720s – all three were written within a year. These works arguably represent Handel at the summit of his operatic achievements. As with the other two the libretto was written by Nicola Francesco Haym (1678 – 1729). After the first run of 14 performances, with the premiere on 13 February 1725, it was revived first at the end of the year and again in 1731. In 1735 and 1736 it was also seen in Hamburg but there enjoyed only limited success. The first modern performance was in 1920 at Gttingen. Since then it has been seen and also recorded on several occasions. As I write this in early February 2015 it has just had a run of four performances in Pittsburgh. The present selection of arias is from a concert performance in Sydney a couple of years ago.

The music is largely top-drawer Handel, even though there is little that is generally well-known. Only Dove sei (tr. 6) can safely be said to belong in the household repertoire. This aria was, incidentally, the very first music by Handel that I bought more than fifty years ago – a worn second-hand purchase of a 45rpm single disc, sung in English by Kathleen Ferrier. I adored it then and I still return to it, now that I have it on CD in an acceptable transfer. Fiona Janes sings it beautifully here, but her vibrato could have been a bit narrower. Valda Wilson, who takes the title role, is also a little more vibrant than one expects but she has a solid technique and handles the coloratura with expertise. Naturally Rodelinda dominates her own opera with a duet and a quintet as well as six arias, most of them fairly short. The duet, Io t’abbraccio (tr. 15) with Bertarido is quite elegant but the vibrant voices tend to grind towards each other when under pressure.

Unulfo is sung by Lorina Gore, who also has a lot of florid singing to execute. This she does with promptitude, though her tone is rather sharp-edged. John Longmuir is expressive and dramatic as Grimoaldo and his Tuo drudo mio rivale (tr. 14) offers thrilling full-throated singing. The singer who impresses the most is however Liane Keegan, the only one in the cast that I knew. Her dark low notes are superb, as is her overall singing. It’s a pity she has very little to sing – only two arias and the concluding quintet.

In the cast-list we also find Michael Lewis as Garibaldo, but we hear nothing of him.

Richard Bonynge conducts with fluency and the recording is first class. I am happy to report that the sung texts with English translations are printed in the booklet – something one cannot take for granted these days.

There are several complete recordings available, both on CD and DVD (Christie; Bicket; Bolton). Among them is a Decca recording conducted by Bonynge with Joan Sutherland in the title role, now on Australian Eloquence (480 6105). Those who are satisfied with excerpts will be fairly well served by this issue, but try to hear it before buying.

Gran Forsling

Track listing
1. Overture [2:48]
Act I
2. Ho perduto il caro sposo (Rodelinda) [2:24]
3. Io gi t-amai, ritrosa (Grimoaldo) [4:21]
4. Sinfonia (Largo) [0:53]
5. Pompe vane di morte ... [1:30]
6. Dove sei, amato bene? (Bertarido) [4:22]
7. Morrai si, l’empia tua teste (Rodelinda) [4:43]
8. Sono i colpi della sorte (Unulfo) [2:02]
Act II
9. De’ miei scherni per fa le vendette (Eduige) [2:32]
10. Spietati, io vi giurai (Rodelinda) [2:29]
11. Prigionera ho l’alma in pena (Grimoaldo) [5:16]
12. Con rauco mormorio (Bertarido) [5:24]
13. Ritorna, oh caro e dolce mio tesoro (Rodelinda) [1:59]
14. Tuo drudo mio rivale (Grimoaldo) [1:44]
15. Io t’abbraccio (Rodelinda & Bertarido) [5:20]
Act III
16. Un zeffiro spir (Unulfo) [4:04]
17. Quanto pi fiera tempesta freme (Eduige) [3:36]
18. Se’lmio duol non si forte (Rodelinda) [2:45]
19. Fatto inferno il mio petto... [3:22]
20. Pastorello d’un povero amento (Grimoaldo) [1:53]
21. Vivi, tiranno! (Bertarido) [2:20]
22. Mio caro bene! (Rodelinda) [4:26]
23. Dopo la notte oscura (Rodelinda, Bertarido, Grimoaldo, Eduige, Unulfo) [2:02]