Rodelinda - reviews of Handel's 'ravishing' romantic opera

Mar 5, 2014

ENO revival of Handel's romantic epic mixes noir thriller and surreal black comedy with ravishing arias

What you need to know

The English National Opera's new production of Handel's romantic epic, Rodelinda, has opened at the Coliseum, London, to positive reviews. Written in 1725, Rodelinda is regarded as one of Handel's operatic masterpieces, combining comedy, romance, farce and political intrigue.

Richard Jones directs the tale of exiled king Bertarido, who returns to his kingdom incognito to save his grieving wife, Rodelinda, from a forced marriage with his usurper Grimoaldo. Runs until 15 March.

What the critics like

In Rodelinda the eternal themes of political manoeuvring, treachery, exile and usurpation are played out to "some of Handel's most exuberantly confident music", says Hilary Finch in The Times. Director Richard Jones stages an artful and irreverent drama and as the violence escalates, so does the hilarity.

Both noir thriller and surreal black comedy, Jones's Rodelinda "lays on the humour like heavy mascara but at its best it's inspired", says Barry Millington in the Evening Standard. It's a sparky translation with singers spinning a ravishing succession of arias against Jones's startling backdrop.

Richard Jones probes Handel's political drama with great intelligence, and "musically it is tremendous", says Tim Ashley in The Guardian. The evening belongs to the two countertenors, who have rarely been bettered in their roles, and are both breathtaking.

What they don't like

It isn't Jones's most subtle or revelatory work, and although it evinces all his theatrical nous, "a certain desperate jokiness sets in", says Rupert Christiansen in the Daily Telegraph. Jones can't decide if the tone is camp or sincere, but then neither could Handel.

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