Review: ENO - Rodelinda @ London Coliseum
Any Handel opera is not to be missed, especially when directed by director Richard Jones. His productions are challenging, yet never too much, comforting without pandering and the right amount of reserve an opera director should have today.
Handel’s music is balm for the soul. This opera, considered one of the finest out of his 42 is very much a thing of beauty and resplendence. With no chorus, Handel focuses on just a medium-sized group of soloists. Like this, the drama is tightened even with the music as gentile as it is.
The production remains in Milan, but centuries later in the tense and suspicious 1950s. Rodelinda is led to believe her husband, the king Bertarido is dead. This results in the cunning Grimoaldo (who is betrothed to Bertarido’s sister Eduige) to attempt to marry Rodelinda. But the usurped king is in exile and not dead at all. The events after involve more plots, romance, surveillance and murder. This production has massed set pieces and never felt they overshadow or took away from the music.
The plinth of Bertarido and the golden arm from the statue (which blown up) remain some impressive outcomes of designs, which look like they took some time to construct. The cameras in Rodelinda’s were menacing enough, the general sense of corruption was even evident in the moulding and tatty walls and the giant machete-like knives used later for unspeakable things. For once, the video work is also noteworthy by Steven Williams. Adding to the true spectacle of the memorial to the dethroned king, viewing it came out of nowhere but was respected for its atmosphere. Everyone in this production seemed to have a tattoo that named their near and dearest.
The cast just kept getting better and the occasional comedy also unexpected and chirpy. Wales’ Rebecca Evans’ a resounding title character, countertenor Iestyn Davies an immaculate Bertarido, John Mark Ainsley’s robust Grimoaldo and Susan Bickley (who I last saw as Ortrud in Lohengrin) as Eduige an at times comic and assertive presence on the stage.
One critic’s review is already putting this production in a pretty negative light. It made for a great evening (over three hours mind) of great music and theatre making.
Rodelinda continues at the London Coliseum until Saturday 15th March 2014. The performance on Saturday 8th March will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 at 6pm and available on the iPlayer for a week after.
Photo Credit: Clive Barda