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<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    A COUNTERTENOR VIRTUOSO


Blaze is, however, a fully signed-up member of the Handel fan club: 'Handel's plots are incredibly long and complex, I know, but they're packed with emotion. Take Bertarido in Rodelinda, he's quite a typical Handelian hero, he goes through this huge range of emotions, and comes out of it as quite a human character. One of the main strengths of the opera is you can follow the character of Bertarido in a quite believable way, you don't ever find yourself thinking, "that's a bit ridiculous, he wouldn't actually behave like that."

'The role was written for Busoni : he was one of the castrati who had more of an alto register -- he wasn't a Farinelli, he wasn't someone who was, you know, stratospherically high at any point. And Handel gives him every kind of aria -- the elegiac to start with, the raging heroic at Act I's close, the Pastorale aria at the start of Act 2, and the final triumphant "Vivi tiranno". You can't help being knocked out by the arias Bertarido sings, they're some of the best music that you'll ever hear written for an alto voice. Any countertenor would want a crack at it.'

In the tragic 'Dove sei?' Handel encapsulates the idea that Bertarido has lost all his kingdom, everything that he was born to. 'Yet he's not back to seize the throne, what's remained important to him is actually coming back for his personal reasons, for his wife and child -- he's really trying to take his family away with him. You feel Bertarido's relationship with Rodelinda, his passion for her, is totally real. There's this moment when the two of them are left together before he's dragged off to the prison, where they sing this absolutely heartrending duet, "Io t'abbraccio", it's their last embrace before Bertarido is hauled off to almost certain death, and the music is full of this wrenching sense that they're being torn apart and can't bear to say this last goodbye : Handel gives it bar on bar of really close dissonances and suspensions, and it's particularly poignant, being a soprano-countertenor duet, as he gradually brings the voices closer and closer together, till they fuse : I haven't met anyone who hasn't been really moved by this music: it's so powerfully written, it just sings itself.'

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Copyright © 26 December 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Worcestershire, UK







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