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Review of Handel's Rodelinda

6 April 2018

Performed in an English translation by Andrew Jones with some adaptions, the diction was excellent. Wallace, in the role of Grimoaldo, came fully into his own. Although Ahasverus (in Esther) and Grimoaldo are similar roles, portraying a king badly served by an evil, self-serving minister, only in the longer Rodelinda does the character get the chance to reflect upon his actions. In fact, the mirrors on the stage seemed to point specifically to the need for reflection and self-awareness among all the characters. Nicholas Morris (bass) played the evil minister Garibaldo with single-minded precision: at one point he physically moved Grimoaldo across the stage in an attempt to make him behave in cruel fashion. I’ve probably seen more theatrical productions of Rodelinda than any Handel opera, but I’ve never seen the character of Eduige (sung by Ida Ränzlöv) so fully inhabit her early role as one of the co-conspirators with Grimoaldo in the downfall of her brother Bertarido and then, regretting her earlier actions, join with Rodelinda to effect his restitution. Rodelinda (Privett) was regal and fearless in her dealings with Grimoaldo and Garibaldo, while Bertarido (played by countertenor William Towers) made poor decisions, jumped to false conclusions, and needed to be guided in his actions by his friend Unulfo.

…the musical highlight of my entire week, however, was the messa di voce with which Towers, as Bertarido, began his first aria, ”Dov’è sei” (”Oh, where are you”). Beginning pianissimo, Towers made a slow crescendo, never losing the purity of the note, and then, miraculously, an equally long decrescendo back to the original volume, and still without a break, continued the full phrase to the end. I was not expecting this, and time seemed to stand still.

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