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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Handel's 'Rodelinda' live in HD



I'm looking forward to hearing Rodelinda this Saturday on the Met's live in HD program. Handel and popcorn! Fleming and diet Coke! What could be better?

I saw this production in New York in 2004. I believe it was my last visit there to date. (I'm no longer drawn to New York) I loved Stephen Wadsworth's fine production. The show told the story in movement, gesture and settings as well as in music. No precious posing in this staging. The full title of this opera from 1719 is great: Rodelinda, regina de' Longobardi. It's based on a French play by Corneille and as with many opera serie the plot is, well...fantastical! I gave up figuring a lot of it out. I enjoy the music and the singing and in this case, the staging.

Renee Fleming sings the title role. I don't like her recordings much. I'm the only person in the world not to get the memo. When I've seen her live however, I'm captivated by her vocal and physical beauty. Stehpanie Blythe, a contralto force of nature who can sing anything appears along with David Daniels, a passionate countertenor. Harry Bicket conducts. I expect to enjoy this-again.

Rodelinda to me has always meant Dame Joan (not her late career recording for Decca). I wouldn't surrender her 1959 performances from London nor her 1973 extravaganza from Amsterdam. Friends tell me that the battered old 3 LP set from Westminster, withTeresa Stich-Randall and Maureen Forrester, is the recording to have. We of a certain age were used to hearing this heavy-Handel and I'm sorry the Westminster recording has yet to make it on to CD. I'd like to hear it again after 40 years.

But again with Handel, it is always a luxury to sit and listen (and watch, at least Wadsworth's production) without working so hard to understand who is married to whom and killing who and married to someone else and sleeping with another's brother in law. It's like an 18th century version of Judge Judy.

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