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Rodelinda review at London Coliseum – ‘bold and inventive’

Juan Sancho, Neal Davies and Rebecca Davies in Rodelinda at London Coliseum. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Juan Sancho, Neal Davies and Rebecca Davies in Rodelinda at London Coliseum. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Seventh-century Lombardy, the setting of Handel’s Rodelinda, may feel remote even by opera seria standards, but in Richard Jones’ 2014 English National Opera staging, now revived by Donna Stirrup, there’s plenty of immediacy.

Within Jeremy Herbert’s cross-sectional multi-room set, placing us in 1940s Milan, we see Grimoaldo keeping an eye on Rodelina via a CCTV monitor and obsessively surrounding himself with photos of her.

The countryside setting in Act II becomes a neon-lit basement bar, colliding with the pastoral scene-setting of the music.

In Act III Garibaldo encourages Grimoaldo to kill the captured Bertarido by proffering a range of imaginative devices. The surreally outsized columnar memorial to Bertarido, its base alone filling the height of the stage, makes a bold impression, as do the two video clips that animate it.

The silent role of the child Flavio is cast as an adult (understatedly, yet virtuosically played by Matt Casey), giving unfiltered physical expression to his feelings. You’d expect nothing less inventive or colourful from Jones but the concept is slightly let down by fussy distractions during some arias, and a seeming desire to play for laughs in final act.

Rebecca Evans returns to the title role, dramatic rather than crystalline; Tim Mead sounds effortless as Bertarido, whether in rage or rapture; Juan Sancho and Neal Davies give fine performances as Grimoaldo and Garibaldo respectively; and Susan Bickley commands the stage as Bertarido’s scheming sister, Eduige. Christian Curnyn conducts with exemplary flair.

Verdict
A boldly inventive production that keenly highlights the drama of Handel’s opera
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