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Monday, March 03, 2014

Rodelinda at ENO and Benjamin Frith at Wigmore Hall.

Well another day of contrasting musical experiences.

The morning was spent at the Wigmore Hall listening to a piano recital by Benjamin Frith.

Haydn - Piano Sonata in C HXVI:50

Mendelssohn - Songs without Words: book 6 Op. 67
Stanford - Three Rhapsodies from Dante Op. 92

Interesting choice of repetoire. Haydn normally seems to be represented in chamber music by his String Quartets so it was nice to see a Piano Sonata for a change. Haydn's genius seems to be overlooked between Bach, Mozart and Beethoven which is rather unfair. Perhaps he just wrote too much?

I enjoyed the Songs without Words so that was a popular choice with me.

Stanford is an English composer who seems to be underrated (I've enjoyed most of the music of his I've heard) and it was nice to see a piece of his on the programme.  

There were two encores. We weren't told what they were (and I won't display my ignorance by guessing) which is a particular bug bear of mine. Performers could at least interact with their audience.

Still it was a very enjoyable way to spend 70 minutes.

The afternoons entertainments was to see English National Opera perform Handel's Rodelinda at the Coliseum.

Now I had only bought the tickets because when they went on sale I had to purchase 3 operas (or wait a bit) so I added this. After seeing Fidelio and The Magic Flute at ENO I was of a mind not to go back to ENO for opera. But I had tickets so off we went.

Handel is another composer who reputation seems to have dipped. Everyone raves about JS Bach but it is easy to forget that when both died Handel had the bigger reputation. Beethoven said of him "the master of us all... the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb."

I was aware this was another of ENO's  modern settings so my hopes weren't high. So lets get that out of the way first. I don't think setting in in 1940's fascist Italy wholly works. The music feels wrong and there were some anachronisms (why on earth pass Bertarido a sword? if you are updating a gun makes more sense?). The video screen at one point was jarring and yes I wish they had chosen a traditional setting BUT all credit the cast  and orchestra were superb AND some of the modern setting did work in getting the emotion over, especially Grimoaldo's lust for Rodelinda (he spent a lot of the opera watching her over closed circuit TV).

The singing was divine, Iestyn Davies did a wonderful Dove sei, amato bene? and I loved the duet between Rodelinda and Bertarido "Io t'abbraccio.In fairness all the cast were good as were the Orchestra. The plot is of course typically operatic and a ltitle silly but there is real emotion in the performance!

Sadly ENO doesn't seem to be able to fill the Coliseum. The boxes were empty at the start and the balcony only 2/3 full. I have to say this is a pity since Rodelinda was a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. So if you want to spread your wings beyond Puccini, Mozart and Verdi then I'd recommend it.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this and would like to see more Handel.
If you want to read more about the opera


oldcrow61 said...

Sounds like a good day all in all.4457

turquis said...

I love your wonderful reviews at this ENO venue. I hope you continue to go there just so you can write about the productions. I like the sound of countertenors and Handel is full of them. How about asking to go back stage with your camera? No harm in asking.

Pete Duxon said...

yup more to come