For Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi
Haym adapted a libretto by Antonio Salvi based on the tragedy Pertharite, roi des Lombards
by Pierre Corneille, the leading seventeenth-century French playwright. This good literary source helped to give the opera an unusually coherent plot and strong characterization. It was first performed at the King’s Theatre on 13 February 1725, and was revived twice by Handel. The kingdom of Lombardy has been taken over by the usurper Grimoaldo. Bertarido, the true king, has escaped to Hungary, but his wife Rodelinda and their young son remain behind in the usurper’s power. Grimoaldo wants to legitimize his rule by marrying Rodelinda. He accordingly declares Bertarido to be dead, and sets up a funeral monument to him. Rodelinda’s aria ‘Ombre, piante’ in Act 1 is sung as she and her son visit this memorial in the cemetery of the Lombardic kings. It is wonderfully expressive of her sad thoughts, the halting phrases in both vocal line and accompaniment being echoed mournfully by a solo flute.
from notes by Anthony Hicks © 1996