The Metropolitan Opera – Stephen Wadsworth’s production of Handel’s Rodelinda – Elza van den Heever, Sasha Cooke, Iestyn Davies, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Paul Appleby and Adam Plachetka; conducted by Harry Bicket

Rodelinda – Opera in three Acts to a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, adapted from a libretto by Antonio Salvi, itself based on the play Pertharite, Roi des Lombards by Pierre Corneille [sung in Italian with Met surtitles in English, German, Spanish and Italian]

Rodelinda – Elza van den Heever
Eduige – Sasha Cooke
Bertarido – Iestyn Davies
Unulfo – Anthony Roth Costanzo
Grimoaldo – Paul Appleby
Garibaldo – Adam Plachetka
Flavio – Brandon Chosed [added/mute role]

The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Harry Bicket

Stephen Wadsworth – Production
Thomas Lynch – Set Designer
Martin Pakledinaz – Costume Designer
Peter Kaczorowski – Lighting Designer

5 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 11 March, 2022
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

Stephen Wadsworth’s 2004 staging of Handel’s Rodelinda, last seen at the Met in 2011, is back for its third revival, and it looks and sounds as good as ever. Elza van den Heever leads a uniformly magnificent cast as Rodelinda, Queen of Lombardy, whose husband has been reportedly killed in battle and who is forced to accept a marriage proposal from the usurper of his throne. She throws herself wholeheartedly into the drama, using her rich, wide-ranging soprano to create a musically radiant and dramatically convincing performance. Among the many affecting moments are her exquisitely beautiful Act One aria of marital desire, ‘Ombre, piante, urne funeste!’ and her furious ‘Spietati, io vi giurari’ in Act Two, in which she condemns her husband’s enemies. 

Iestyn Davies, who made his 2011 Met debut in the role of Unulfo, here takes on the larger role of Bertarido, Rodelinda’s husband. As the deposed king, he gives a deeply expressive and highly credible characterization. His plush, heart-rending and agile countertenor is captivating in each of his arias, but especially in the meltingly tender ‘Dove sei?’ of Act One, where he longs to be with his beloved wife and in Act Two’s ‘Scacciata dal suo nido’, when, in a burst of glorious coloratura, he rejoices at the idea of being reunited with her. His voice blended elegantly with van den Heever’s in ‘Io t’abbraccio’, their moving duet of despair at the end of Act Two, when they bid each other farewell.

Grimoaldo, one of the few leading tenor roles in Handel’s operas and a challenging character to pull off as he constantly wavers between villainy and benevolence, is sung by Paul Appleby, who brings a refined voice and passionate temperament to his characterization, plunging himself into extremes, from outright wickedness to heartfelt gentleness. His Act Two ‘Prigioniera ho l’alma in pena’ – in which he reveals that he remains deeply in love with Rodelinda even though he has no chance of winning her – is poignantly rendered. 

Anthony Roth Costanzo makes much of the part of Unulfo, counsellor to Bertarido, whom he helps to escape and regain his throne. His lighter countertenor is ideally matched with Davies’s heavier instrument. And in a cast with no weak links, mezzo Sasha Cooke as Bertarido’s sister Eduige and bass-baritone Adam Plachetka as Garibaldo, the evil Duke of Turin, move about with grace as they peal off one vocal gem after another. 

Harry Bicket, seemingly today’s go-to conductor for Handel’s operas, leads a smallish Met Orchestra – including recorders, theorbo, and harpsichord – in a fast-paced, dramatically alert performance. 

The lush and elegant production updates the original story by a millennium to set it in Handel’s time. Martin Paklednaz’s gorgeous period costumes and Thomas Lynch’s handsomely appointed, ultrarealistic sets, mostly bathed in warm hues by Peter Kaczorowski, add to the grandeur. Stephen Wadsworth’s expert direction makes us care about these characters as much as the composer did, and there isn’t one of them who fails to come to life, even the silent but substantial role of little Flavio, son of Bertarido and Rodelinda, delightfully played by child actor Brandon Chosed.

  • Further performances on March 15, 19 (matinee), 24, 27 and 31. 
  • The March 19 performance will be broadcast live beginning at 12pm Eastern Time via the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

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