> VIVALDI Orlando Furioso DVD [KM]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Orlando Furioso

Marilyn Horne, Orlando
Susan Patterson, Angelica
Kathleen Kuhlmann, Alcina
Sandra Walker, Bradamante
Jeffrey Gall, Ruggerio
William Matteuzzi, Medoro
Kevin Langan, Astolfo
Orchestra and Chorus of the San Francisco Opera, Randall Behr
Production: Pier Luigi Pizzi
Rec: 1989, San Francisco.
ARTHAUS DVD 100210 [147.00]

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Antonio Vivaldi wrote a large number of operas, but it is only in recent decades that these works have been revived. The modern age of Vivaldi opera began in 1979, when Pier Luigi Pizzi produced Orlando Furioso in Verona. Since then, many performances of this work and others have been staged. This DVD presents the 1989 revival of this production, performed in San Francisco.

Antonio Vivaldi's opera takes place on the sorceress Alcina's enchanted island. Although old and ugly, Alcina has the magical power to make herself appear beautiful and to bewitch courtiers who set foot in her realm. She has tried to make her power eternal by gaining possession of the invincible guard Arontes under the statue of the wizard in the Temple of Infernal Hecate. Brought to the island by fate, the other main characters of the opera, namely the beautiful Angelica, her young Saracen lover, Medoro, and the jealous Orlando--a Christian knight and Charlemagne's nephew, who is in love with Angelica--are entwined in an intriguing love story of furious passion and despair.

Marilyn Horne gives a fine performance in the bel canto style, although her stage presence is somewhat stiff and wooden. The minimal staging has her often wandering back and forth across an almost empty set, looking out of place. The staging is as hokey as the libretto, but, if you can let these things fade away, the music is wonderful.

Horne is not alone giving a wonderful performance. Soprano Susan Patterson is magnificent; her voice is smooth and subtle. Countertenor Jeffrey Gall gives a moving performance, especially in the long aria Sol da te, mio dolce amore, a haunting, melancholy piece with obbligato flute.

Kathleen Kuhlmann is an excellent singer, and she, too, has her chance to shine in the spotlight of Vivaldi’s beautiful music, especially in the aria Vorresti amor da me? She is also very beautiful, and has excellent stage presence.

The recording is fine for a live recording, with the usual weaknesses as the singers move around, and perhaps more coughing than usual among the audience. While the staging is uninteresting, and the sets and costumes boring, musically this disc shines, with a bouquet of excellent singers. This is certainly worth having, especially since there are so few recordings (especially videos) of Vivaldi’s operas.

Kirk McElhearn

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