Evenings of Great Songs & the Stories Behind Them

Boston
Cambridge Lieder & Opera: Handel's Rodelinda

(a review) 

    When the Handel opera revival began in 1920, the first work to return to the stage after an absence of almost two centuries was Rodelinda. Here in the US there appears to have been no performance since a 1931 Smith College production, although Alexander Young's 1960s LP collection of the opera's tenor arias was enough to whet anyone's curiosity. And so when the small, start-up Cambridge Lieder & Opera Society announced a full production (April 16-25), Handelians took note.

     It was easy to find flaws with this production, and local critics spared no effort in italicizing shortcomings in the most brutal terms possible. Yet Rodelinda is so engaging in itself, and so much of Cambridge Lieder's talent did shine through, that it is fair to judge this effort a significant success.

     Even on a shoe-string budget that left the company's directors Susan Cooke and Victor Preston in hock, the impressions of Rodelinda continued to resonate weeks after its run was over. One reason: Nicola Haym, one of Handel's best librettists (Radamisto, Guilio Cesare, Tamerlano), fashioned an unusually trenchant and coherent plot.

     Susan Cooke, along with David Harris and conductor Michael Beattie, enhanced this staging with a more than serviceable English translation, which shrewdly heightened the drama already present in the music and the original Italian text. (Cooke and Beattie also assumed When the Handel opera revival began in 1920, the first work to return to the stage after an absence of almost two centuries was Rodelinda. Here in the US there appears to have been no performance since a 1931 Smith College production, although Alexander Young's 1960s LP collection of the opera's tenor arias was enough to whet anyone's curiosity. And so when the small, start-up Cambridge Lieder & Opera Society announced a full production (April 16-25), Handelians took note.

     It was easy to find flaws with this production, and local critics spared no effort in italicizing shortcomings in the most brutal terms possible. Yet Rodelinda is so engaging in itself, and so much of Cambridge Lieder's talent did shine through, that it is fair to judge this effort a significant success.

     Even on a shoe-string budget that left the company's directors Susan Cooke and Victor Preston in hock, the impressions of Rodelinda continued to resonate weeks after its run was over. One reason: Nicola Haym, one of Handel's best librettists (Radamisto, Guilio Cesare, Tamerlano), fashioned an unusually trenchant and coherent plot.

     Susan Cooke, along with David Harris and conductor Michael Beattie, enhanced this staging with a more than serviceable English translation, which shrewdly heightened the drama already present in the music and the original Italian text. (Cooke and Beattie also assumed

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