Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REVIEW: Handel’s Rodelinda (Australia)

Melbourne Recital Centre, Friday October 3

“Oh, she bosses me around… that’s maybe because I bossed her around when she was a kid”, says the lady seated beside me. Apparently, she is the mother of soprano Greta Bradman, who sang the role of Rodelinda. How I wish I can say that I have heard Bradman before and how fabulous she was. Instead, I just quipped that I have seen Rodelinda before in Munich and continued to listen to her giving advice to another lady on how to become a great soprano. The reality is that I opted to go to this performance because of the living legend Maestro Richard Bonynge. His name alone has made me buy the tickets and I was not disappointed at all.

I have only seen Rodelinda once before and it was a staged version at Munich Staatsoper. In fact, that same production is available in DVD. It features Dorothea Roschmann (Rodelinda), Michael Chance (Bertarido), Felicity Palmer (Eduige), Paul Nilo (Grimoaldo), Christopher Robson (Unulfo) and Umberto Chiummo (Garibaldo) and was conducted by Ivor Bolton. An opera is best appreciated when seen properly staged as the music was crafted for that purpose. Having said that, this concert version presented by the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation was by far better if music alone is to be considered. Maestro Richard Bonynge conducted with immense confidence; and that was exactly the sound the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra produced. Above all, I am just so glad to see Bonynge in such great health. His posture and grace, together with his obvious love for the music he was performing was indeed most inspiring.

Greta Bradman’s Rodelinda was exquisite with good vocal control. Her interpretation was a good balance of drama without making the sound and role too heavy. Fiona Janes’ Bertarido (husband of Rodelinda) was a pleasure to listen to. She shows great depth of understanding and feeling for her role. I tend to prefer counter-tenors for this role, but Janes rich mezzo was an ample substitute. John Longmuir’s Grimoaldo was one of the highlights of the evening. His tenor voice has a rich fine tone and was effortless in executing high notes. Liane Keegan as Eduige showcased her robust contralto voice wonderfully and demonstrated the conflict she felt between her King brother (Bertarido) and the man (Grimoaldo) who has usurped the throne. Lorina Gore got the thankless role of Unulfo (friend of Bertarido), but she infused the role with great enthusiasm and skill; and somehow, made herself noticed. Michael Lewis’s Garibaldo may be more suitable in a staged version. While he brings great intensity to the role, his tone sounded too rugged amongst the other finer tones.

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