HANDEL Rodelinda / Fleming, Scholl 0743470

Directed from the harpsichord by Harry Bicket, the orchestra delivers a nimble performance with some attractive pops of 18th-century colour from theorbo, Baroque guitar and recorders. On stage, Scholl's cool Bertarido and Iestyn Davies's mellifluous Unulfo make a pleasing contrast to Joseph Kaisers splenetic Grimoaldo, an antihero rich with psychological fault-lines. As Eduige, Stephanie Blythe displays handsome tones, while Shenyang sings the brutish role of Garibaldo with élan . . . Fleming, without whom none of this would be happening, is perplexing . . . an exquisite voice . . .

. . . vocal subtleties achieve their own high definition, and we can better appreciate the period theorbo and recorders that conductor Harry Bicket adds for flavoring in the pit. Via this medium, characters give every sign of communicating with one another, while the producer's agile camera focuses tightly on individual expressions to register the characterizations that are so crucial to Baroque opera's theater of personality. It also helps that this matinée in December 2011 finds Renée Fleming, as Rodelinda, and countertenor Andreas Scholl, as the deposed king Bertarido, in stronger vocal form than when the revival opened a month earlier. The soprano invests her high-speed passagework with convincing venom in arias such as "Morrai, sì" and, when the occasion demands, spins a subtle line, easing effortlessly in and out of trills . . . Her portrayal of the attractive, frantic heroine has matured to include moments of regal composure . . . With his poised legato and an idiosyncratic mix of bright and shadowy timbre, Scholl masterfully shapes the hero's mournful "Dove sei, amato bene?" and "Con rauco mormorio" . . . Joseph Kaiser, in the tenor role of Grimoaldo, and countertenor Iestyn Davies, as Unulfo, are welcome newcomers to the cast, while mezzo Stephanie Blythe repeats her effortlessly commanding Eduige . . . [Bicket's conducting is] cultivated and eloquent . . . [Stephen Wadsworth's] production is as telegenic as at the 2004 premiere, cinematic in its fluid use of revolving and elevator stages and refreshing in its focus on storytelling rather than conceptual novelty.

. . . ihr vielseitig cremiger Sopran durfte in unterschiedlichsten Rollen ungebremst strahlen und glitzern . . . Fleming singt ihre Rodelinda mit gleichmäßig schimmernder Süße . . . Andreas Scholl hat gegenüber seinem ebenfalls aufgezeichneten Bühnendebüt in der gleichen Rolle in Glyndebourne an Sicherheit und Männlichkeit gewonnen. Stephanie Blythe ist als Eduige eine geläufig-robuste Mezzogurgel . . . Joseph Kaiser im Frack singt den Widersacher als tenorstrahlenden Salonschurken.