Vocal Cast Makes the Difference in Handel’s Rodelinda

SpainSpain G. F. Handel, Rodelinda: Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis (conductor), Madrid National Auditorium, 28.10.2012 (JMI)

Concert Version


Rodelinda: Karina Gauvin
Bertarido: Sonia Prina
Grimoaldo: Topi Lehtipuu
Eduige: Romina Basso
Unulfo: Delphine Galou
Garibaldo: Matthew Brook

The last time I saw Rodelinda was seven years ago in Bilbao at a concert which was also conducted by Alan Curtis with Il Complesso Barocco. The artistic result then was significantly poorer than this one in Madrid and the main reason for the improvement was the difference in quality between the two vocal casts.

I always considered Alan Curtis an important musicologist, even though he has never quite matched the supreme quality of some of his better known colleagues as a conductor in the baroque repertoire. This time however, he offered a significantly better reading than seven years ago, especially in the opera’s second half. Mr Curtis is not a conductor given to spectacular gestures, and I though that he was much better off on the podium in Madrid than seated at the harpsichord, as he was in Bilbao. Having said this though, there is no doubt at all that Il Complesso Barocco is one of the best baroque instrumental ensembles around today and it is clear that Mr. Curtis is responsible for a large part of the group’s quality. The vocal cast chosen for this tour was particularly well chosen too and even brilliant – still more evidence of Alan Curtis’s artistic abilities.

The Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sang Rodelinda and I consider her to be one of the most interesting sopranos currently available for this genre. Hers is a very attractive soprano, very homogenous and absolutely outstanding at the most intimate arias, though perhaps just a little weaker at bravura moments. She made an excellent Rodelinda, with an exemplary version of the aria ” Se’l mio duol non è si forte” .

Bertarido, Rodelinda’s husband and deposed King of Milan, also had an exceptional interpreter in contralto Sonia Prina. In the past Alan Curtis has used a countertenor for this character, but I think that a true contralto is more interesting, unless the countertenor is exceptional. We learned at the intermission that Sonia Prina was suffering a virus infection, and there was some uncertaintly whether she could continue singing. She did sing however and nobody could possibly have guessed that she was ill. She produced a magnificent performance, and reached new emotional heights in the second half, particularly in her two arias from the third act. All kudos to her.

The Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu gave a good deal of life to the usurper Grimoaldo and he too was very good, although not quite at the same level as his female colleagues. Romina Basso was well suited as Eduige, Bertarido’s sister and Delphine Galou was a remarkable interpreter of Unulfo, Bertarido’s confidante, excelling in agility, even though hers voice isn’t tryul outstanding. The only slightly weak member of the cast was Matthew Brook as Garibaldo, whose singing felt rather coarse by comparison with the other vocalists.

The auditorium had a surprisingly large attendance at over 90 % of capacity and there was an enthusiastic reception for all the artists at the end of the concert.

José Mª Irurzun