Yesterday’s VOICEBOX presentation was Handel’s Rodelinda. It was given in their usual style. No sets (bar the odd projection), minimal props, concert wear and the singers mostly in front of an onstage orchestra. The main attraction was the “all star” cast. To have Christina Haldane, David Trudgen, Charles Sy and Alex Dobson in the principal roles is something of a luxury. The two young mezzos rounding out the cast; Gena van Oosten and Meagan Larios weren’t half bad either.
It was heavily cut of course. Perhaps an hour of music was gone. Recitative was kept to a bare minimum and only the grandest of arias got the repeat. Some lost the B section and others were scarcely hinted at but each of the three main stars got at least one chance to show their ornamentation chops. Given the constraints that VOICEBOX operates under it was pretty judicious.
There was some really distinguished singing.and some good acting too. Haldane, in the title role, had definitely decided to take the diva route. Her rather formal body language seemed designed to dispel any doubt about who the star was. If, as has been suggested, Rodelinda is a sort of cross between Penelope and Medea, this was definitely at the Medea end of the spectrum. Fortunately she could back it up with very stylish singing. The two contrasting arias L’empio rigor del fato and S’el mio dual non é si forte both showed exquisite control with a bravura quality in the former and some real lyricism in the latter.
Counter-tenor David Trudgen, as Bertarido, was new to me (ETA: Apparently not. I saw him in the title role in Orlando with VOICEBOX almost five years ago but as I was reviewing for OC his name didn’t come up when I searched the blog archive!) and he was every bit as good as Haldane. He gets to sing Dove sei which may be the best known aria in the piece and he didn’t disappoint. It was lovely. The final duet with Haldane was pretty sweet too. Charles Sy sang the usurper Garibaldo. I didn’t detect any trace of the cold that he’s had all week. This was classy Handelian tenor work right from Di cupido on.
Alex Dobson gave a solid, firm toned account of the treacherous Grimoaldo. I’ve seen dramatically nastier versions but he was quite convincing as the conniving sidekick. Gena van Oosten is still a master’s student but she showed some power and flexibility as Eduige and even managed some very decent ornamentation when given the chance. Meagan Larios sang the trouser role of Unolfo. It’s not as powerful a voice as the rest of the cast but it’s accurate and pleasant and she showed good acting skills. So all round really quite a distinguished singing/acting performance.
Larry Beckwith led an eleven piece on stage band. There were no horns but otherwise Handel’s instrumentation was more or less intact and that size of ensemble works well in a hall the size of the Jane Mallett and gives a chamber music intimacy which suits the music. I really don’t need eight desks of first violins in Handel!
All in all, and given the constraints, a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon.