Esther and I saw *Rodelinda* at the Met on March 24, 2022. It's a Handel opera I had seen on TV years ago but had never seen onstage. The Met first did it in 2004 and again in '06 and '11 - - I love Handel operas and would ordinarily run to see any Handel in town but all those productions were starring Renée Fleming and I just couldn't stomach the idea of her singing Handel. Her singing is too gooey for Handel. No thank you. I was thrilled to see the Met was doing it again with someone else.
Let me talk about the music before I get to the singers. The orchestra was the star of the show, conducted by the Baroque specialist Harry Bicket. Or to put it another way, Handel was the star of the show. Such gorgeous music, so expressive, so full of variety, drama, snap, and crackle. Extraordinary writing for the singers, of course. The orchestra was surprisingly small, I'd never seen such a teensy weensy orchestra in the pit at the Met, it looked like about 25 players. They brought in one guy playing archlute and theorbo (similar to a lute) and another guy playing Baroque guitar and theorbo. They added a lot of flavor to the sound, as did the harpsichord.
Elza van den Heever sang Rodelinda. I'd heard her twice before, as Elizabeth I in *Maria Stuarda* and as Marie in *Wozzeck.* She sang this role on her terms, sang with great feeling and commitment. She sounded a little out of her element now and then but not enough to mar the experience.
Sasha Cooke was the mezzo lead. I was thrilled to see her back at the Met, I'd heard her as Kitty Oppenheimer in *Doctor Atomic* and was blown away by her in that. I also heard her in a concert performance of Handel's *Orlando* years ago - - I loved her in that so I had high hopes for this. She delivered. She has s lovely voice and a great feeling for the style. Now and then I wanted a meatier low range, more of a Marilyn Horne or Elizabeth DeShong kind of voice. Or Stephanie Blythe, who had done it in the previous airings. But Cooke was very good. Plus, as Esther said, "She's so pretty!"
I love tenor Paul Appleby, I'd heard him many times. He was very good, especially with this rapid fire arias, which I call "dog with a sock" arias. Do an impersonation of a dog with a sock and that's what Handel had in mind.
The best singing of the night was by the two counter tenors, Iestyn Davies and Anthony Roth Costanzo. This shouldn't be a surprise because Handel is their bread and butter - - I've heard them both singing other things but Handel is the number one composer on their rep lists, he pays the rent. ARC (as I like to call him) is a singer I adore, and he was wonderful. So clear in the rapid singing and limpid in the slower arias. He's a gem.
I'd heard Davies four or five times before and had never warmed up to his voice but wow, he blew me away in this. Luscious singing all night long. He had the clarity and limpidness or ARC but added that extra something special. Here's a clip from his lovely duet with van den Heever, one of the highlights of the evening: