Jean-Marie Villégier?s stylish production of Rodelinda sets Handel?s tale of royal exile and fidelity in the silent movie era. The composer?s ravishing music is perfectly set off by the sophisticated glamour and visual dar... more »ing that characterized the birth of cinema. With Anna Caterina Antonacci as Rodelinda, Kurt Streit as Grimoaldo, Umberto Chiummo as Garibaldo, Andreas Scholl as Bertarido. Glyndebourne Festival Opera.."Jean-Marie Villégier?s brilliant, unnerving production ... A great show - don?t miss it" THE GUARDIAN« less
"I have seen my share of dusty, mothballed productions of Handel operas and at this point I look forward to modern productions; it seems Handel, and opera seria in general can work particularly well in highly stylized stagings and this Glyndebourne version, directed by Jean-Marie Villegier, is a feast for the eyes, ears and the brain; there's no powdered wig or corset in sight, and the modern context of whole story is skillfully played up. Set in the "silent movie" period, lighted in stark contrasts, with beautifully realized black and white film feel to it, this is a very distinctive looking production; the costumes and make up all add to the visual splendour. Musically, it could not be better; under the direction of William Christie, the playing of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is tight, crisp and just about perfect, and the soloists excel both vocally and dramatically. Anna Catrina Antonacci is incredibly intense in the title role- this is not an elegantly poised Handel delivered at an arm's length. Andreas Scholl plays Bertarido; his singing is impeccable, and who knew coolly restrained Scholl had it in him to deliver such a moving performance on stage! All his arias are standouts and he brings the house down with Viva Tiranno in Act III. There's plenty of Senesino's roles left for Scholl to play, and it looks like he's on his way to become a blazing hot star on the opera circuit. As for the rest of the cast: Kurt Streit as Grimaldo, Umberto Chiummo as Garibaldo, Louise Winter as Eduige, Artur Stefanowicz as Unulfo et al, are just as good- there are no weak links here. This is one of Handel's operas where the plot actually makes sense and this is an extraordinary group of performers who can act and sing the hell out of Handel at the same time. The DVD package is very spare- no extras of any kind, but there are subtitles in several languages, and the sound and picture quality are excellent. For any Baroque opera lover, this is a must-have; for everybody else, this is a great piece of musical theatre of the highest caliber, brilliant, often unnerving and extremely moving, and, methinks, highly accessible; this is Handel for the modern age. Five stars and counting- let's just hope there's more where this came from."
J. Kauffman | Haddonfield, NJ USA | 09/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Villegier presents Handels great opera Rodelinda in silent movie terms - characters are made up with white paint and lipstick; the costumes on the women are gorgeous 1920s and the acting is heavily stylized as in an old Gloria Swanson film. And it works!!! the stylized movements and emoting exactly fit Handels very stylized and formal composing. To top it off the singing is superb. Andreas Scholl in his operatic debut is astounding - "Dove Sei" is heart rendingly beautiful, the bravura arias are superb and the acting is heartfelt. As a matter of fact all of the singers are thoroughly in the Handel idiom and William Christie leads his great Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a very dramatic performance. One of the best operatic DVDs I have ever seen."
Silent Screen-Style Acting Does Not Distract from Handel's S
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 01/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"More than many opera seria, Handel's 1725 Italian opera, "Rodelinda", provides such a palpable story of jealousy, revenge and undying devotion that it is no wonder the opera itself has been given such widely diverse translations over the years. I was fortunate to experience two wonderful productions of "Rodelinda" just this past year. The first was Stephen Wadsworth's elaborate Metropolitan Opera production set on a beautiful 18th-century country estate, starring superstar soprano Renée Fleming in the title role and the extraordinary countertenor David Daniels as her husband Bertarido. The second also starred Daniels but with rising soprano Catherine Naglestad in David Alden's expressionistic film noir adaptation at the San Francisco Opera (first staged by Munich's Bavarian State Opera).
The 1998 Glyndebourne Festival production, directed by Jean-Marie Villegier and captured on this DVD, takes yet another creative path by setting the story in the black-and-white world of 1920's silent cinema. Completely different in execution and style, all three versions simply prove how the highly charged drama and soaring music translate easily in almost any period setting. Although Alden's production is more audacious and heavily symbolic, Villegier brings a relatively simplified approach to the storyline and encourages a highly stylized, silent screen type of acting from his cast. For the most part, it works, and the minimalist sets by Nicolas de Lajartre and Pascale Cazales provide an effective counterpoint. Costume designer Patrice Cauchetier, however, sometimes gets carried away with the fussy, anachronistic clothing she provides, which does little to enhance the performances.
Fortunately, the stellar cast is strong enough to transcend such stylizations and shortcomings. In the demanding title role that requires a strong enough voice to carry eight significant arias, veteran soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci is a fiery presence who conveys defiance with ease and feels at home with elaborately expressive vocal lines. Truth be told, her vibrato can be off-putting at times, and her regal demeanor works against the emotion of the more vulnerable passages, for example, during her extravagant rendition of the heartbreaking Act III aria, "Se 'l mio duol non e si forte," in which Rodelinda thinks her husband Bertarido is dead. However, Antonacci's passion and professionalism carry the day.
As Daniels has proven recently, Bertarido is one of the truly great roles for an accomplished countertenor. Luckily, Andreas Scholl has a beautiful, emotive voice and fluently handles the wide range of singing from the melancholy of "Dove sei, amato bene?" to the anger of "Vivi, tiranno!" with equal ease. Scholl is at his peak during his poignant Act II arias, "Con rauco mormorio" and "Scacciata dal suo nido", where his coloratura is particularly impressive. As an actor, however, he is not as charismatic a presence as Daniels (at least back in 1998 when Scholl was starting to emerge on the scene) and consequently tends toward a certain banality for a king who has been not only deposed but left for dead. All is forgiven, however, with the much anticipated duet between Antonacci and Scholl which ends Act II, the magnificent "le t'abbraccio", which does not disappoint.
The rest of the cast handles their roles with uncommon skill - tenor Kurt Streit as the impatient usurper Grimoaldo, baritone Umberto Chiummo as the dastardly henchman Garibaldo, countertenor Artur Stefanowicz as Bertarido's faithful sidekick Unulfo, and mezzo-soprano Louise Winter as Bertarido's sister Eduige. All sing magnificently in this production, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment complements the voices perfectly under the seasoned baton of William Christie. The one major drawback is the way the opera is filmed in overly dark shadows, especially at the beginning, and the alternating long and medium shots that seem unnecessarily busy at times. The visual edginess and restlessness tend to distract from the onstage drama when the focus should be on the beauty of the music. Regardless, this is a faithful record of a Handel masterwork wonderfully performed. The superb Baroque music speaks for itself."
Adrian Tettner | 10/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best Handel opera stagings I have seen, very modern and artistically daring. William Christie and his orchestra are great, and the singers are really outstanding, especially Antonacci in the title role, and the two countertenors. Rodelinda is becoming very popular these days, and hopefully we will soon see more new producitons of this opera, but I think this one is set to become a classic. A must see for anyone interested in the glories of Baroque opera, and brillantly performed Handel."
Superbly realised Opera Seria
Mr Richard Fitzsimmons | Scotland | 11/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released on VHS several years ago, Rodelinda now comes to the DVD. Although the DVD offers little more than the older VHS, it is nevertheless welcome coming, as it does, hot on the heels of the Munich Rodelinda starring Michael Chance and Dorothea Roeschmann. One could argue that the staging is somewhat out of date now, but few could argue the quality of the vocal contributions from each of the soloists. It certainly wins hands down over the Munich performance on Farao.
Rodelinda, one of the triumvirate of classic Handelian operas of the mid-1720s, is a classic of psychological action and shows Handel at his best as an interpreter of human drama and emotion. In the hands of William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Rodelinda comes alive in a timeless production from Jean-Marie Villégier. A sort of cross between the Prisoner of Zenda and movies of the silent period, this production was atmospheric and moving, though some will rankle at the 'needless' condescensions to humour (Garibaldo's cigarette aria for example, or his leaping up after being shot to take part on stage in the final chorus dispensing champagne to all).
What sets this performance apart from others of the past. at both Glyndebourne and Covent Garden, is the singing. Anna Caterina Antonacci was utterly at ease in the anguished part of the distraught queen Rodelinda, mourning the loss of her husband Bertarido (Andreas Scholl, making his stage debut) and fighting off the attentions of the victorious dictator Grimoaldo (Kurt Streit). The supporting characters are more than simply adjuncts - Louise Winter as Eduige, Artur Stefanowicz (Unulfo) and Umberto Chiummo (Garibaldo) play their parts too in making this an outstanding production. Streit plays the part of Grimoaldo as a noble conqueror, guilty over his victory but unable to contain his passion for Rodelinda, vascillating over whether to have Bertarido executed, though capable of nobility at the end when his life is saved by Bertarido. Chiummo as the treacherous henchman Garibaldo displayed admirable coloratura and an almost feline edge to his actions that effectively got across the double-dealing nature of his character.
Andreas Scholl made his stage debut in this performance at Glyndebourne. Initially edgy and uncertain, his character grows in stature, and by the end his characterisation is utterly convincing. His entrance in Act one with its famous aria 'Dove sei?' was almost as if time stopped and we were transported back to Handel's time - his voice grave, pure and heartfelt. He coped well with some very difficult passage work in Act 2, but brought the house down in his duet with Antonacci at the end of Act 2 (Io t'abbraccio) and his 'Vivi Tiranno' at the end of act 3. His prison scene in Act 3 is streets ahead of the most recent Rodelinda recording in its dramatic awareness.
In all this was a very sucessful production that, by and large, achieved the praise it deserved in the press. Anyone interested in baroque opera will not wish to be without this video, nor will anyone who is a fan of good opera, well sung and well acted. Highly recommended, and worth probably 6 * "