Renee Fleming returns to the Met in Handel's Rodelinda
In December 2004 the Met expanded its Handel repertoire by creating a production especially made for Renee Fleming, one of today's leading Divas and one of the Met's superstars. The production by Stephen Wadsworth is updated to 18th century Milan rather than the original 7th century. When the production opened critics hailed it because Wadsworth was able to move the story forward and allowed the characters to come to life, even the non singing roles. A year later the production was brought back and critics bestowed even more praise on the production as they stated that Handel's music was treated as drama and not as showstopping pieces. Wadsworth was diligent in making sure that there were characters interacting and that during arias there were no awkward poses. This year the Met brings back the production and one only wonders if this year it will be as great.
Renee Fleming returns to the role of Rodelinda, a queen who is thought to be a widow and finds herself pursued by suitors who want her throne. Fleming has become well known for her interpretations of Strauss so it is curious to see her in a repertoire that does not really suit her voice. Her voice is able to craft a fluid phrase with ease, but she is definitely not known for her coloratura roles. Two seasons ago Fleming returned to the role of Armida at the Met, a role she had not sung for more than ten years. The results were mixed as her voice no longer had the agility and flexibility that Rossini's heroine needs. While she had gorgeous phrasing it was hard to forget the Fleming's shortcomings. However Rodelinda is a much newer opera to Fleming as she made her role debut back in 2004 to great acclaim. Rodelinda which is noted for its demands as the role has eight arias that allow Fleming to show her versatility. She was hailed for being at ease with Handel's florid music and long melodies. In 2006 she returned to the same success in the role. However critics did note that her portamentos were grandly and romantic as well as her tone consistently became cloudy and uneven. Fleming also has the tendency to create a lot of mannerisms with her voice in order to express. Overall though critics felt that Fleming was exquisite in the role. While I know that Fleming will most likely be great in the role, I must add that opera purists will most likely criticize her for being the wrong voice type for the role. Controversy will spur and most likely the audience reception will be split.
Countertenor Andreas Scholl returns to the role of Bertarido. Scholl is one of today's leading countertenors next to David Daniels. In 2006 when he sang the role, critics raved about his stylish poised singing and his expressive acting. They also noted that he has a light and bright voice perfectly suited for the baroque repertoire.
Stphanie Blythe also returns to the cast in the role Eduige. Her voice while big and dark may seem the wrong fit for this repertoire. However Blythe has excelled both as a contralto and a dramatic mezzo allowing her to sing the vocal demands of Wagner and the lighter fare such as Offenbach and Handel. In my Aida preview I noted that Blythe is not the greatest of actors and that she has the tendency of standing and singing. However Blythe has one of the most expressive voices to date allowing her limited movement to be effective. When she sang the role of Eduige in 2006 she was hailed for her power and clarity. Now in her prime I suspect she will sing even better than a few years ago.
Joseph Kaiser returns to the Met replacing the originally scheduled, Kobie Van Rensburg. Kaiser who made his debut in the role of Romeo has quickly become one of today's most appealing young tenors. Having seen Kaiser in his debut and last year in the role of Flammand in Capriccio I can honestly say that Kaiser's voice has matured into a beautiful lyric voice. He should be strong in this performance.
Antohiny Roth Costanzo makes his met debut and Shenyang round out this outstanding cast. Harry Bicket returns to the podium in his hailed interprtation of Rodelinda.
Its refreshing to see the Met return to an opera that is not part of the standard repertoire; especially a baroque piece that has been hailed as a masterpiece.
Rodelinda is part of the Mets Live in HD.