Big if true, as they are saying: The new production of Handel’s “Rodelinda” that opened on Friday at Hudson Corridor is simply the primary in a sequence of annual Handel stagings there to return.
For the following a number of years, Hudson, N.Y., has the potential to develop into a Baroque opera vacation spot, even for these accustomed to the wealthy choices of New York Metropolis. Certain, you may catch Handel down the river in Manhattan, however commonly programmed stage works of his are more likely to be discovered solely on the Metropolitan Opera or Carnegie Corridor, two cavernous areas not precisely suited to the precision and immediacy wherein this composer’s music thrives.
Hudson Corridor is much from a standard opera home; with no pit and seemingly detached acoustics, it was used within the nineteenth century for speeches by the likes of Emerson and Susan B. Anthony. However, outfitted with 281 folding chairs organized round its boxy room’s tight proscenium on Friday, it was surprisingly ultimate for the intimacy of Handel — regardless of having the look, as my companion advised me, of “Waiting for Guffman.”
The outcome was nothing so cringe-worthy because the form of city corridor neighborhood theater satirized in that film. With good course by R.B. Schlather and wonderful performances from the early-music group Ruckus, it is a “Rodelinda” price of a multiyear dedication to Handel.
Schlather, an American director who needs to be as well-known in the USA as he’s in Europe, is a trusted steward of this repertoire, having staged unconventional Handel productions at a Decrease East Aspect gallery and at Nationwide Sawdust in Brooklyn. He additionally, crucially, was on the helm of a beloved, immersive “The Mom of Us All” at Hudson Corridor in 2017.
His “Rodelinda” has sufficient dramaturgical sense to know that the opera — whereas melodramatic, about murderous and finally pointless palace intrigue in medieval Italy — is usually a bit dishevelled in its second act, from which Schlather lower essentially the most materials for his extra streamlined, two-and-a-half-hour manufacturing. However all through, he’s additionally largely restrained, with few interventions. His scenic and costume designs are redolent of the Victorian age (a nod to Hudson Corridor’s period of moralistic speechmaking), although not meticulously dedicated to specificity or accuracy with the aesthetic.
Schlather’s intelligence comes by means of finest in different particulars. His unit set of a single room could also be a very good money-saver, but it surely additionally casts “Rodelinda” as a form of surreal purgatory between reigns, romances and levels of grief. (Hauntingly, the lone window appears to be like out to a black void.) And he levels the arias — moments of reflection that cease motion but spin out wealthy psychology by means of repetition — as addresses somewhat than as internal ideas, lending Handel’s small solid the preternatural honesty and self-awareness of Sally Rooney characters.
Crucially, within the finale — after deaths each supposed and actual; after lovers are spurned, separated and reunited — Schlather seats the six surviving characters at a desk, the place their exhausted faces betray the traumatic actuality of Handel’s rejoicing, relieved music.
In that scene, and all through the night, it was clear that Schlather had spent quite a lot of time with the singers on dramatic care. Motion can transfer slowly in a Handel opera, however his manufacturing is one in which there’s all the time one thing to see within the performers’ evolving expressions, whether or not they’re immediately concerned within the motion or just observing it from throughout the room.
The soprano Keely Futterer, within the title function, appears to be like instantly as if she’s simply been by means of an important tragedy and is staring down one other as she desperately holds on to her baby, Flavio (a silent function that Myles Fraser shares with Tessa Ok. Prast). However she is a robust character with a luxurious, highly effective sound to match, at one level, as an influence transfer, overtly taking and consuming the wine of the person who usurped her husband’s throne. She ornamented her melodies with adventurousness, although these prospers typically obtained misplaced in large vibrato or proved unwieldy. The mezzo-soprano Solar-Ly Pierce was affectingly ardent and not sure as her husband, Bertarido.
As the 2 villains, Grimoaldo and Garibaldo, the tenor Karim Sulayman and the bass-baritone Douglas Williams had the best vocal outings of the evening. Sulayman’s Grimoaldo was appropriately barking but small, the depiction of a real insecure beta. Right here, as is usually the case with him, he was pushed as a lot by theatrical intuition as by magnificence, holding them in elegant stability and easily flowing between the 2. Williams’s Garibaldo, in contrast, was a mighty presence, booming and characterfully depraved, imperious in holding his power and sexuality over others.
The present of an area like Hudson Corridor is that, with out an excessive amount of effort by both the viewers or the artists, you may hear each nuance of Handel’s music and its interpretation. However that may be double-edged, revealing any faults in what’s already a vulnerably exposing fashion. So you would sense, on Friday, the comparatively gentle enunciation of the mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz’s Eduige, for instance, or the pinched countertenor of Brennan Corridor’s Unulfo.
Lapses like these, although, have been outweighed by the really up-close performances of the night’s stars: Ruckus. Their command of the rating was speedy, exact and fleet within the overture, but additionally jittery, with questioning flashes of darkness and uncertainty. With a mercurial, nearly improvisatory spirit that responded to the drama in actual time, they performed with the fieriness and emotional cost of verismo.
It’s no shock that, a number of rows in entrance of me, somebody within the viewers was rocking alongside to the music. As Schlather brings Handel again to Hudson Corridor over the following a number of years, let’s hope he brings Ruckus, too.
By Oct. 29 at Hudson Corridor in Hudson, N.Y.; hudsonhall.org.