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George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Orlando – Opera in three acts (1733)
Orlando … Marijana Mijanović (mezzo)
Angelica … Martina Janková (soprano)
Medoro …Katharina Peetz (mezzo)
Dorinda … Christina Clark (soprano)
Zoroastro … Konstantin Wolff (bass)
Orchestra ‘La Scintilla’ of the Zurich Opera/William Christie
rec. live, Zurich Opera House, 2007
Stage Director: Jens-Daniel Herzog
Set Design/Costumes: Mathis Neidhardt
Lighting: Jürgen Hoffmann
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Menu Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Subtitle Languages: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish
Picture Format: 16:9
Region Code: 0
[2 DVDs: 155:00] 


Experience Classicsonline

If, for you, Handel must be in the original setting with arbours, groves, magically disappearing mountains and suddenly appearing fountains, then this production is not for you. If, however, you are prepared to accept a setting of a sanatorium at some imprecise time after the first World War, where Zoroastro is not merely the Director but also the surgeon, Orlando the chief inmate, with Angelica as another, Dorinda as a nurse and Medoro as a bit of a groping spiv, then do give this recording a chance.

What may well jar is the failure to follow through necessary consequential changes in the libretto. There are so many examples, two will suffice: Dorinda described as a ‘shepherdess’ and names on a blackboard described as carved on a tree. In similar vein, if omissions are made to the plot, then the consequences really ought to be addressed. For example the relating of the destruction of Dorinda’s home by Orlando and the burial of Medoro in the ruins are omitted. So no death of Medoro then. Therefore why does Zoroastro sing that he has saved Medoro?

Let us accept the simple deflecting answer: live with it. Not being a well-known opera, what is the plot? It would be easy to write a brief essay but a skeletal framework must suffice. At the opening of the opera Orlando loves Angelica and Dorinda loves Medoro. Unfortunately, Angelica and Medoro love each other: and that is how the opera ends with Orlando and Dorinda stepping aside. En route to achieving that Orlando descends into madness before overcoming his own confusion of love and glory. Dorinda recognises her own inability to achieve either Orlando’s love or Medoro’s love. Angelica accepts her former love of Orlando but has moved on and now devotes herself to Medoro including vocal and physical skirmishes with Dorinda. Zoroastro influences all trying to prevent them from falling prey to their own failings.

That back ground almost cries out to be up-dated in our psychologically conscious time: and what better time than post the First World War with its mentally damaged participants. The opera itself defies much of the baroque tradition: da capo arias there are but there are also sections of through composed music. As an aside it may that this was what led to the departure from Handel’s opera company of his great soloist Senesino – not enough da capo for his self- glory – but I digress.

There is plenty of glory here for Marijana Mijanović (Orlando). Whilst early on I think that there is occasional indistinctness of enunciation that soon disappears. She has a strong voice across her whole vocal range and she grabs the music and gives it a metaphorical shake applying her distinctive timbre with equally convincing acting. That is essential for the conclusion of Act 2 where Orlando’s jealousy has driven him way beyond the edge of reason into his imagined world before his physical collapse.

Mijanović gives an outstanding display of an unhinged mind. My only real reservation relates to her deep timbre or tone. Compare that with what must still be regarded as the definitive recording (L’Oiseau-Lyre Hogwood CD: 4308452) on which James Bowman sings Orlando.

Christina Clark (Dorinda) has not the strongest voice. Early on, when William Christie is setting a fast tempo, she does not quite middle every high note. However she soon settles. Very clear pronunciation and gentle, even trills are a splendid contrast with her later feisty duet Ah! mia Signora with Martina Janková (Angelica) ending in a brilliantly staged pillow fight. Clark’s facial expressions are excellent and well captured in brief close up. Equally powerful is her duet with Mijanović in the last act commencing Pur ti trovo o mio bene.

Martina Janková as Angelica gives a splendid performance. Her singing appears effortless and she throws off high notes with what appears to be nonchalant ease. She produces glorious singing ranging from pathos to aggressive expression. Her gentle vibrato, colouring, focus and timing are pure pleasure; her venom a sight and sound to admire.

Konstantin Wolff (Zoroastro) is a young man whose voice has not yet filled out. I note that this recording was made in 2007 whereas the earlier production was at the Zurich Opera House in January/February 2006 when Günther Groissböck took this role - the only cast change from the original. Wolff does not bestride the production as a paternal/controlling figurehead. This is partly attributable to his youthful voice and partly to the production wherein as superintendent of the institution he has a rational explanation for his student followers: there is no overarching mysterious magical power. It here descends to the level of injection and chloroform pad. All that said, Wolff carries the role well and has some resonantly deep notes. Given time and if not forced too soon, I am sure his voice will develop deeper colouring and greater power.

Medoro, sung by Katharina Peetz, is portrayed as a spiv who might well be in love with, and grope, Angelica but who also enjoys a grope with, and by, Dorinda. I think that this is an unnecessary sexual addition – but maybe the view was taken that that is one of the ways to make opera more ‘accessible’ – in current buzzword language. Bosom groping maybe; but crotch groping? – no thank you. However I will take my own advice and ‘live with it’.

Peetz has a very smooth and easy tone Her Verdi allori, sempre unito is delivered with gently colouring and well judged dynamics squeezing out every drop of emotion. I think that her costume for the last scene curious: was the turban a misguided nod toward the African prince role of Medoro of the original libretto? Some of Angelica’s costumes are striking particularly against the ‘staff’ white coats or nurse uniforms and those of Orlando as an in-patient.

Duets and trios are a Handelian departure from the pure baroque. With such a strong cast it is not surprising that these are sung and acted with admirable assurance. The trio at the end of Act 1 Consolati o bella, and groping notwithstanding, is delivered with excellently balanced vocal sounds. The interchange between Clark and Janková in the final Act commencing Ah! Mia signora is a joy. Clark’s facial expressions are excellent and well filmed in brief close-up.

The baroque aficionado William Christie is in charge of the orchestra. I hesitate to say this but for me some of the tempos were too regular. In the ‘mad scene’ there is not enough emphasis between the different sections. Also the sound does not seem as immediate as it does on the CD I have referred to. No doubt that is the disadvantage of the live theatre as against the recording studio where the orchestral lay out was “modelled on contemporary illustrations of opera orchestras” (Anthony Hicks. CD booklet p.14).

Finally, there is an excellent listing of the tracks with recitative and aria noted separately: ignoring the opening and closing credits, 52 no less.

Robert McKechnie

see also
Review by Jens Laurson



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