(Rodelinda, regina de' Langobardi, HWV 19)
Hänssler Classics CD 93.032
Recorded in 1937 (d),
1938 (a, b), 1939 (c)
Released in 2002
Rodelinde: Cäcilie Reich
Bertarich: Gerhard Hüsch
Grimwald: Fritz Krauss
Hadwig: Emma Mayer
Garibald: Hans Ducrue
Suite from Alcina (b)
Aria “O wende dich nicht ab” (“Sì, che ti renderai”, Tiridate act II, scene 5) from Radamisto (c)
Arias “Hast du mich ganz berauscht” (“Tu la mia stella sei”, Cleopatra, act I, scene 8) & “Es blaut die Nacht” (“V’adoro, pupille”, Cleopatra, act II, scene 2) from Julius Cesar [Giulio Cesare in Egitto ] (d)
Georg A. Walter, tenor (c)
Marta Fuchs, soprano (d)
Chor des SWR (a)
Chor des Reichssenders Stuttgart (a)
Orchester des Reichssenders Stuttgart (on 'modern' instruments) (a, b, c, d)
Carl Leonhardt (a), Gustav Görlich (b, d), Fritz Lehmann (c)
First performed in February 1725 – the year after Giulio Cesare and Tamerlano –, Rodelinda is one of the most famous masterworks Handel composed for the Royal Academy of Music. It is a love story about Rodelinda and her husband Bertarido, whom she believes to be dead but is eventually reunited with. They both chose love rather than power. It is left to the usurper Grimoaldo to struggle with the difficulties of government under the bad influence of Garibaldo.
This recording of Rodelinda is an historical document made during the revival of the music of Handel during the inter-war years. It was made by the German radio on 78 rpm records of four minutes each in 1938 under Carl Leonhardt, former music director of the Stuttgart National Theatre. This revival started in 1920 with a production of Rodelinda (the first performance since 1736) using a score arranged “for the modern stage” by the scholar Oskar Hagen. It was so successful that this arrangement was used for many productions during the 1920’s and 1930’s, and it is the one used for this recording.
What does arranged “for the modern stage” mean? First, the action is simplified and concentrated on the main characters by cutting some recitatives and many arias, either partially or completely. Every single aria written for Unulfo and Eduige disappears. It results in acts organised into two or three scenes and, for example, the second act begins with Bertarido’s aria “Con rauco mormorino”, which originally belongs to the fifth scene. Male parts written for sopranos or altos are sung down an octave by tenors or baritones, and the whole opera is sung in German. This not only changes the colours of the music, but Hagen has rather freely translated the text. As an example, here is the text of an aria sung by Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto and which is present as an extra on this recording. First the original Italian text and its English translation, and then the German version of the text and its English translation:
Performance Language English Translation
Le vostre faville
Son grate nel sen.
Pietose vi brama
Il mesto moi core,
Che ogn’ora vi chiama
L’amato suo ben.
I adore you, o eyes,
The darts of love,
Sweetly pierce my breast.
My mournful heart
Beseeches your pity,
Since it ceaselessly calls you
Its dearly beloved.
Es blaut die Nacht, die heiße Nacht Ägyptens
Und flammend lodert Sternenpracht!
Da glühen die Sinne, da brennen die Herzen
In Liebe, da wallt das Leben auf!
Ach Sehnen, Verlangen, erfüllen die Seele,
Das Blut wallt heiß empor.
Wo bleibst du, Geliebter?
Mein armes Herze verzehrt sich sehnend In Eisamkeit.
Indigo now the night, the hot Egyptian night
Beneath the splendour of a starry sky!
Now the senses glow, now hearts burn
With love, life at boiling point!
Ah, longing, yearning, fill the soul,
The hot blood surges upward.
Where are you, my beloved?
My poor, lonely heart consumes itself with yearning.
At least Handel’s music is quite safe, some da capos are not totally cut and the singers try some variations and cadenzas. However, the tempos are often slow and the singers often struggle with the style. They have many difficulties with a vocalità particularly unfamiliar to their technique. Moving moments are very rare and mainly due to Cäcilie Reich. For today’s listeners, this recording sounds rather like an aberration. Yet it is a fascinating testimony to the revival of Handel’s music belonging to a tradition which lasted several dozens of years. It is impossible to grade these performances using our regular criteria, yet they will certainly be of value to those interested in historic recordings.
No mark given
© Philippe Gelinaud - October 2002
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