The season, day by dayback to calendar
Dramma per musica in three acts
Libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, based on Pierre Corneille's tragedy Pertharite, roi des Lombards (1652) First performed February 13 1725, King’s Theatre Haymarket, London
Co-production with the Teatro Real, Madrid, Opéra de Lyon & Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
Sung in Italian with German and English surtitles. ca. 3hrs 30mins, including one interval
Introduction, in German, in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
A gloomy family tale full of electrifying tension: Bertarido killed his brother in a squabble about who the rightful heir to the throne is, but has to flee Milan when his brother's powerful ally, Grimoaldo, turns up, leaving his wife Rodelinda and son behind. In exile, he spreads rumours of his death. Grimoaldo, originally engaged to Bertarido's sister Eduige, woos Rodelinda. But the Queen intends to remain faithful to Bertarido until she dies. Grimoaldo's brother-in-arms, Garibaldo, who will stop at nothing, takes Rodelinda's son Flavio hostage. When Bertarido returns to Milan, incognito, to save wife and child, he sees Rodelinda accepting Grimoaldo's marriage proposal – although she is only pretending to. In the end it is Bertarido who protects Grimoaldo from an attack by his ally, Garibaldo. Grimoaldo reinstates him as King at Rodelinda's side, and returns to Eduige.
George Frideric Handel wrote Rodelinda in London in 1725, a year after he composed Giulo Cesare in Egitto and Tamerlano, and two years before he became a naturalised British subject. Handel was inspired by his collaboration with the librettist Nicola Francesco Haym, a crafty man of the theatre, a musician who was skilled at adapting existing opera texts. They chose to base their opera on a work by a predecessor, Antonino Salvi, who had transformed Corneille's 1652 tragedy into a libretto in 1710. Corneille incorporated historical events as they were described in a 7th century Lombardian chronicle. Handel's (and Haym's) portrayal of the three main characters took on an unusual psychological nature. Unusual, too, is the role of the child, Flavio, who says nothing but takes on an important function. When the story is told from his perspective, as Claus Guth did in his 2017 production at the Teatro Read in Madrid, the power games and love intrigues surrounding his parents, aunt and the foreign intruder in the royal household intensify, culminating in a gripping, nightmare of events.