Opera Scotland

Rodelinda regina de' Longobardi; Queen of Lombardy

Music

George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759).

Text

Nicola Francesco Haym, after Rodelinda (1710) by Antonio Salvi (set by PertI).

Source 

French drama Pertharite (1651) by Pierre Corneille (1606-84).

 

Premières

First performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 13 February 1725.

First performance in Scotland: South Queensferry (Hopetoun House), 24 July 1992.

Scottish Opera première: Greenock (The Beacon), 26 September 2013.

 

Background

Rodelinda was the next opera composed after Tamerlano, and was prepared for the same company of singers. Several of the attractively tuneful arias survived in recitals even when the full opera remained forgotten. In the twentieth century it was one of the first of Handel’s operas to be revived successfully in Germany, and it has continued to maintain its position. In Britain it was performed regularly by the Handel Opera Society in London (and a recording exists of their 1959 production in which Joan Sutherland sings the title role and Janet Baker is Eduige). More recently it has been performed with success at Glyndebourne.

We first set up this note in 2011, soon after the site was established, to help preparations for anyone able to see the live cinema relay from the New York Met, in which a starry cast was let by Renée Fleming as Rodelinda and Andreas Scholl as Bertarido. It scarcely occurred to us that the file would come in handy for Scottish performances with such alacrity!

 

Characters

Rodelinda, wife of Bertarido (soprano)

Bertarido, deposed King of Lombardy (alto)

Grimoaldo, Duke of Benevento (tenor)

Garibaldo, Duke of Turin (bass)

Eduige, sister of Bertarido (mezzo-soprano)

Unulfo, secretly a friend of Bertarido (alto)

Flavio, son of Bertarido and Rodelinda (silent)

 

Plot Summary

The action takes place in northern Italy towards the end of the seventh century. Bertarido has escaped to Hungary following an attack by the forces of Grimoaldo, supported by Garibaldo, who had previously been a follower of Bertarido. His wife and son were left behind, and he has returned in disguise to rescue them. However Rodelinda believes him to be dead, and when Grimoaldo proposes, she reluctantly accepts in order to safeguard the life of her son, regain power in Lombardi and gain revenge against Garibaldo, who she considers to be a traitor. Bertarido, still disguised, is horrified to discover his wife’s apparent betrayal.

Eduige is resentful of her rejection by Grimoaldo, who she had expected to marry. Rodelinda tells Grimoaldo she cannot be both his wife and the mother of the legitimate king (her son Flavio). On her suggestion that he therefore kill the child, Grimoaldo gets squeamish, though Garibaldo considers it an excellent idea. Unulfo, having assured Bertarido of his wife’s faithfulness, reunites them, but Grimoaldo interrupts them, and Bertarido is condemned to death and led off to prison.

Unulfo and Eduige plan to help Bertarido escape, but when Unulfo enters the cell in the dark, he is unrecognised, and Bertarido attacks and wounds him. After they have sorted out that misunderstanding and departed, with Unulfo dripping blood but still able to lead Bertarido to safety, Rodelinda arrives, and finds bloodstains and her husband’s cloak. She assumes the worst. Garibaldo finds Grimoaldo asleep in the garden, and he sees his chance to kill him and seize power. Instead, he is himself killed by Bertarido, who promptly surrenders the sword to the waking Grimoaldo. A general reconciliation follows, with Grimoaldo marrying Eduige as originally intended, and Bertarido being restored to his throne.

The Cast

Bertarido
 deposed King of Lombardy
Eduige
 sister of Bertarido, engaged to Garibaldo
Flavio
 son of Rodelinda and Bertarido
Garibaldo
 Duke of Turin, a friend of Grimoaldo
Grimoaldo
 Duke of Benevento, usurper of Bertarido's throne
Rodelinda
 wife of Bertarido
Unulfo
 a young nobleman, adviser to Grimoaldo but secretly a friend of Bertarido

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