Queen of Lombardy
July 12, 2003
I had the dubious pleasure of seeing David Alden's new production of Rodelinda twice within a fortnight. It was more tame than I expected, no giant robot lab rats, no walking dentures. Thankfully, there was plenty of cigarette smoking, a little drunken staggering, and naturally, things were thrown. Also, five shots were fired from a gun in the last scene, at least it wasn't during the music, as in Götterdämmerung.
The staging aesthetic was reminiscent of Film noir, the costumes were all in 1930s style. The choreography was not too bad, it went with what they were going for, and the principal singers all moved well. Too bad the chorus of background dancers they had were not synchronized.
The transitions between scenes were smooth, although some of the set was quite loud when moved. Also, I did not appreciate that the set took so long to be put in place during the intermissions, one hour for two intermissions is too long for a three hour opera.
Händel's music is celestial, but the chorus is missed in this. The finale is appropriately strong though, hearing all the voices together after all the arias makes an impact.
Ivor Bolton seems to conduct Händel much better than Mozart. It always seems much more together, I have noted this with Saul and Serse as well.
The singing was adequate, no one was particularly brilliant. Dorothea Röschmann in the title role was the most impressive, but she looks timid and she has a tendency to gasp occasionally. Her voice is sprightly. She was excellent in her duet with Michael Chance, she did not overshadow him although the countertenor voice is always a little false next to a soprano. Michael Chance as Bertarido wasn't bad, his voice has sweetness to it, but when he slipped into his real voice, it was obvious. Paul Nilon as Grimoaldo had a likable voice, like most tenors, a little too quiet. I was surprised by Felicity Palmer, who was a sassy Eduige. Her volume is good, but her voice is a little rough. Her shoulders are as slumped as I remember in Giulio Cesare, and she looks most comfortable in the suit that she wears in the last act. Everyone loved Christopher Robson best, he played the buffoon as Unulfo. They have him walk around on stage with a kitchen knife stuck in his arm, when Bertraido mistakenly has wounded him. This got wild applause, though there is no aria in that section.
The audience was very indifferent during the 2. July performance, many people left, there was hardly any applause. In contrast, the 9. July audience clapped after every single aria, but some people left this performance early as well.