HANDEL Rodelinda / Fleming, Scholl 0743469

. . . a showcase for the soprano Renée Fleming . . . In addition to Ms. Fleming's star power, Stephen Wadsworth's direction has received much credit for the production's initial success and durability . . . To a remarkable degree, Mr. Bicket has the Met orchestra sounding like a period band, scrubbed mostly free of vibrato . . . [Andreas Scholl has] splendid lyrical gifts . . . [Renée Fleming] threw herself and her voice wholeheartedly into the considerable drama.

. . . [Andreas Scholl]: the nobility of tone, evenness of timbre and eloquence of phrasing we expect from this singer were all there, as well as the excitement generated by his fluency with even the most difficult divisions and his ability to make it seem as though a single phrase can hang in the air with so much portent. He blazed through "Vivi, Tiranno" with brilliant ornamentation . . . [Iestyn Davies] made a striking debut as Unulfo, his acting as sympathetic as his singing was beautiful -- "Fra tempeste" was a high point of the evening. Joseph Kaiser blustered convincingly as the to-be-reformed usurper, and Shenyang revealed a nicely developing Handelian bass as Garibaldo. Stephanie Blythe is about as convincing a Handel singer as she is a dewy-eyed Princess . . . her lovely little arioso after the reunion with her brother revealed her lovely, burnished tone and sincerity of phrasing . . . [Renée Fleming] has a great voice . . . it's heartening to see the passion with which she clearly loves this music . . . [Harry Bicket] coaxed decent playing from the Met's orchestra, alert as he always is to the needs of the singers in terms of phrasing and articulation.

The young British countertenor Iestyn Davies sang with beautiful tone and refinement. Even when negotiating rapid fioritura, Davies sounded full-bodied and projected a strong character. Scholl, the veteran countertenor, sang with elegance . . . Tenor Joseph Kaiser sang with distinction, especially in his soft final aria . . . Renée Fleming and Stephanie Blythe provided rich vocal color. Fleming's passion and dedication were impressive, with fine technique wedded to sympathetic acting . . . Fleming was convincing . . .

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.