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RODERIC DUNNETT catches up with
Glyndebourne Touring Opera's 'Rodelinda'


Three years ago, Andreas Scholl drew universal plaudits for his stage début at Glyndebourne, singing the lead male role in Rodelinda, Handel's penultimate opera, first staged in February 1725. This autumn, a young British countertenor proved himself Scholl's near-equal by achieving a similar triumph in the role for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, taking in not just Glyndebourne's regular touring locations such as Oxford and Plymouth but two new Glyndebourne venues, Stoke on Trent and the Milton Keynes Theatre.


I caught up with this dazzling staging at the last -- a theatre whose broad stage and responsive acoustic lends itself magnificently to opera. Within minutes of the curtain going up, the qualities of the Christopher Cowell/Jean-Marie Villégier production were already obvious, while conductor Emmanuelle Haïm's players gave a clear forestate of the excellence that was to pervade the evening : strong sectional definition; clean double-dotting; superb violin soli; striking period bassoons; exquisite flute echoes (plus an Act 3 sequence redolent of Purcell's Dido); wonderful pastoral music; and aching strings for Grimoaldo's Act 3 penance -- to name but a fraction.

On a l920s verandah fronted by apron steps Emma Bell's Rodelinda made a visually weak start (her more histrionic poses veered between a Caryatid and something out of T S Eliot's The Cocktail Party), but vocally she was soon in her stride : her coloratura throughout the evening was powerfully authoritative, even if she could have been the hero's mother, not his spouse. The greys, blacks, creams and browns of Nicolas de Lajartre's and Pascal Cazales' sets set in relief the numerous subtle touches of this production -- all of which served to intensify plot detail, not detract from it, while making brilliant focal use of the da capo arias to do so.

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Copyright © 22 December 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK






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