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Handel - Rodelinda / Kermes, Mijanovic, Davislim, Lemieux, Il Complesso Barocco, Curtis
George Frideric Handel, Alan Curtis, Il Complesso Barocco
Handel - Rodelinda / Kermes, Mijanovic, Davislim, Lemieux, Il Complesso Barocco, Curtis
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #3


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CD Reviews

Something not quite 'right' ?
Mr Richard Fitzsimmons | Scotland | 11/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is the latest Handel opera offering from DG - starry casting, a Handel doyen at the helm, and a prize-winning orchestra to boot, but like last season's Giulio Cesare there is something missing in this performance, and I don't just mean the absence of countertenors in an opera that has seen many a ct triumph in recent times.

The singing is stylish, appropriately ornamented for the most part, and the singers can actually sing the notes written unlike some recent and not so recent Handel opera performance or recordings. The orchestral playing is superb in places and sounds noticeably beefier than on one or two recent Complesso recordings. The direction is involved without becoming too intrusive. In comparison to the Kraemer on Virgin or the Schneider on DHM, this is the preferable recording, though the first two had some nice touches and some stylish singing in slightly incomplete versions.

The whole recording is based on the version of Rodelinda that Handel might have recognised from the revival of late 1725, including a re-written aria (sono i colpi della sorte) and several additions (including vivi tiranno, and a duet for Bertarido and Rodelinda that later flows into an abbreviated coro), claiming to be the first complete recording of the opera so far. Andrew Jones, who re-edited the opera for the HHA edition writes some informative notes and writer Donna Leon, a Curtis favourite, gives a good synopsis of the action.

All the ingredients are there for another prize-winning recording, so, what is missing ? Rodelinda is probably the Handel opera I know best having sung Bertarido and Unolfo arias in amateur competitions, so any cavelling here is perhaps due to that, but for some reason the dramatic elements of the story and music don't really ring true. I am not moved by the experience, though there are some very nice moments such as the opening scenes of Act 1, the Garibaldo arias of Vito Priante, and Steve Davislim's 'pastorello d'un povero armento' in Act 3. Simone Kermes, apart from a few occasional liberties with high notes, is a convincing Rodelinda; her opening scena is superb, as is her 'morrai, si; l'empia tua testa' from the end of Act 1 and her 'spietati, io vi giurai' in Act 2. In 'Ritorna, o caro e dolce' wishing for the return of her beloved Bertarido, she is lyrical with beautiful tone, far in excess of Sophie Daneman for Kraemer.

Sonia Prina is a feisty Eduige and her 'lo faro, diro; spietato' in Act one a high-class exemplar of vocal acting. Steve Davislim as the tyrant Grimoaldo, is at least the equal of his competitors on disc, though one might wish for a little more attack in the coloratura of 'tuo drudo e mio rivale'in Act 2. That said his accompanied arioso leading into 'pastorello' is a major highlight. As Bertarido's henchman Unolfo, the Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux has few chances to shine, though her 'fra tempeste' and 'un zeffiro' are stylish if slightly underplayed. She does get an extra aria in an addition to the 3rd Disc - the first version of 'sono i colpi' - which she has some difficulty in articulating the repeated notes clearly.

The only slightly disappointing vocal contribution is Marijana Mijanovic's Bertarido. Despite the fact she has sung this role at Glyndebourne she seems slightly under the note (also as Cesare in Minkowski's recording) and her slower arias seem to lose momentum similar to her extended recitative. Dove sei has some ugly ornamentation (written, we are told, by Emmanuelle Haim for her Glyndebourne performances), and her prison scene in Act 3 lacks the dramatic clarity of Andreas Scholl in the video of his Glyndebourne debut. The duet with Kermes at the end of Act 2 is effectively done, as is the additional duet at the end of Act 3. I actively disliked her Vivi Tiranno.

In the end, this is a personal dislike of a particular voice, and many readers of this will disagree with me and prefer her to a countertenor as Bertarido. She is, however, a good vocal actress (see Vivaldi's Bajazet), but IMHO not in this role.

So, we have a good recording with many more highlights than faults, but curiously undramatic in places and some very closely miked singers. Perhaps it's DG's recording technique that is the missing element here ?

RODELINDA comes to life in a superlative performance
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Handel's operas continue to please audiences in today's opera houses around the world, whether they are performed in a duplicate style of Handel's period or updated in bizarre trappings and settings. The music and the drama remains intact and in a class all its own.

While everyone knows Giulio Cesare, Alcina, Ariodante, Serse, Rinaldo at least by isolated arias, Rodelinda has not benefited from as many performances and certainly not as many recordings. The opera is a beauty, abounding in elegant arias and ensembles and some of the most beautiful orchestral writing of all the Handel operas. The opera can be performed with the extensive use of countertenors (much like Giulio Cesare) and for this listener that approach has always been preferable. But this new recording may just alter everyone's opinion of casting!

Homogeneously excellent, the cast includes Simone Kermes (a clear toned, radiant soprano) in the title role, Marijana Mijanovic as Bertarido, brilliant tenor Steve Davislim as Grimoaldo, and Marie-Lemieux, Vito Priante, and Sonia Prina. There have been excerpts from Rodelinda recorded by the big names in opera, but as for ensemble effect and the true baroque style this cast is seamless.

Of course much of the success of any Handel opera performance lies in the hands of the conductor and here Alan Curtis conducts Il Complesso Barocco with ravishing embellishments and pure straight tone that underscores the drama. The sound of the recording is top notch. For those opera lovers waiting for a near perfect RODELINDA look no further! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 05"
Finally a great Rodelinda on CD
Nico Deloddere | Belgium | 06/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Expectations were high when I started to listen to this recording. Most great Handel operas like Giulio Cesare, Orlando, Ariodante, Alcina, Agrippina, ... have successful been recorded to date. Rodelinda has had less luck, and I always turned to the Glyndebourne video with William Christie conducting when I wanted to hear this opera.
This new Rodelinda grows on me every time I listen to it.
What a great opera it is! And what a shame that it hasn't attracted more attention on CD since the Handel revival.
You need three great singers to start with: of course Rodelinda, sung here by Simone Kermes who has a very beautiful voice indeed, a lot of dramatic involvement and she gives great ornamentation in the arias. She clearly wins over the uninvolved Sophie Daneman in the boring Nicholas Kraemer recording on Virgin, but Anna Caterina Antonacci is still my definitive Rodelinda.
It's also good to have mezzosopranos and contraltos in stead of contratenors. Marijana Mijanovic is a total success as Bertarido. From her very first note, you recognize that unique voice I first heard in Minkowski's Giulio Cesare. Compared to Daniel Taylor's non-existant interpretation and even to the very good Andreas Scholl on Christie, Mijanovic wins on all fronts. From extremely soft notes to great dramatic outbursts, I'm on the edge of my seat every time she sings.
On top of that, we have the best Grimoaldo you can imagine. I had never heard of Steve Davislim, but now it is a name to remember. What a great tenor role this is. No less than six arias with 'Pastorello d'un povero armento', preceeded by a great accompagnato, as climax of the third act. Tenor roles in Handel operas seem underestimated to me. Listening of Bajazet in Tamerlano or Lurcanio in Ariodante, and now to Grimoaldo, I'm always surprised by the low notes and the demands on flexibility. Steve Davislim has no technical problems whatsoever. Moreover his performance is heartfelt and very moving.
The other singers have minor roles, and they can stand the competition with the other recordings. The voices are very characteristic and recognizable.
Conductor Alan Curtis does a great job here. His other recordings of minor Handel operas like Arminio seem like second-rate now. Instrumental detail is very clear and the performance flows beautifully.
A performance I will return to over and over again, and ranks along Minkowski's Ariodante, Christie's Orlando and Hickox' Alcina.