Handel: Rodelinda

Danielle di Niese Rodelinda, Bejun Mehta Bertarido, Kurt Streit Grimoaldo, Konstantin Wolff Garibaldo, Malena Ernman Eduige, Matthias Rexroth Unulfo, Luis Neuhold Flavio, Angelo Margiol Flavio’s friend, Concentus Musicus Wien, Nicolaus Harnoncourt
189′ (2 DVDs)
Belvedere 10144

This DVD is hardly worth listening to, let alone seeing. The speeds are dull – to take for example the overture (where was the minuet?), the largo was andante-larghetto; the allegro was andante. The tempi continue in such fashion (‘mean’ Handel – where fast is too slow and slow too fast). The cast is pretty decent, although indiscriminate vibrato taints them all. And while Bejun Mehta is not bad as Bertarido, Matthias Rexroth (Unulfo) makes a good case for using a contralto or mezzo. (Amazingly, women can play men.) As the heroine, de Niese has good facial expressions and can act (makes up for an indifferent voice), but Rodelinda is misconceived: no dignity or that aura of untouchability that means a) Grimoaldo is helpless about her in more sense than just love, and b) that she keeps her reputation and poise throughout. For example, her ‘L’empio rigor’ (far too pedestrian, by the way – and that’s before de Niese lags behind the beat) starts with Grimoaldo actually touching her and towering over her; she seems indecisive and at a loss what to do. The music is so at odds with this that the whole thing’s a nonsense. It’s a shame, for Grimoaldo’s entrance is suitably bumbling. And there’s some bizarre wardrobe-moving – but what else do you do in the da capo? (And, of course, Rodelinda, being a woman, is only interested in clothes anyway.) The recitatives are awful – very sung; all notes almost the same length (interminable). There are occasional good moments (e. g. the first encounter between Grimoaldo and Eduige, and Bertarido’s ‘Dove sei’), but the bad moments are too cringe worthy – e. g. the sex scene between Eduige and Garibaldo (never mind that Eduige is supposed to have left the stage… And how do you bonk with your trousers on/tights up?) We’ve only got a third of the way through Act I. It doesn’t improve. Avoid!

Katie Hawks