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The English Concert - Handel: Rodelinda - The Observer

The English Concert, directed by Harry Bicket, has launched a new Handel opera series with one of his finest: Rodelinda (Linn), first performed at the King’s theatre, London in 1725 with top singers of the day. Bicket’s cast, too, is crammed with Handelian talent. Soprano Lucy Crowe sings the title role, always brilliant in precision and expressive power, as heard in her sorrowful aria Ombre, piante. The countertenor Iestyn Davies, as her “dead” husband Bertarido, invests every word, every note with intensity, and sends the dramatic temperature soaring at each entry. The chiming timbres of the contralto Jess Dandy (Eduige) and countertenor Tim Mead (Unulfo), tenor Joshua Ellicott (Grimoaldo) and bass Brandon Cedel (Garibaldo) complete a first-rate lineup.

Occasionally, fleetingly, the need for social distancing threatens ensemble – the recording was made in St John’s Smith Square in September 2020 – but this adds a sense of risk to music already, in its energy and complexity, on the edge. The English Concert’s playing is pliant, warm, elegant. If the rest of the project reaches this standard, we’re in luck.

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The Observer
15 May 2021