Magazine article Opera Canada

Orlando: Matthew White (Medoro) and Amy Burton (Angelica) in the New York City Opera Production

Magazine article Opera Canada

Orlando: Matthew White (Medoro) and Amy Burton (Angelica) in the New York City Opera Production

Article excerpt

The New York City Opera continued its laudable Handel tradition with its new production of Orlando. (That's a qualified "new": like other NYCO productions, it was seen first at Glimmerglass, two summers back, with a largely different cast.) The team of director Chas Rader-Shieber and designer David Zinn had concocted the company's delightful Flavio in 2003, but that production's not-quite-over-the-top whimsy couldn't be carried wholesale into the darker realms of Orlando. Rader-Shieber and Zinn set the action spinning in a panelled forest with, at curtain rise during the overture, an anachronistic infirmary stage right, into which a disarmingly charming little red-curled Cupid intrudes with his bow and arrow poised at the bedridden patients. (Throughout, visual allusions to World War I were prominent, but somewhat inscrutable within the basic early-18th-century setting: was this post-Shakespearean Forest of Arden, haven of lovers, haunted by intimations of the Great War's tragic Ardennes?) Overall, though, the duo's undeniable cleverness was balanced by their clear-eyed embrace of the opera's more sober moods.

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Performing Orlando is a challenge in that neither its hero nor the rather haughty object of his affections, Angelica, "queen of Cathay," engenders much audience empathy. For the great castrato Senesino, creator of so many wonderful roles for Handel, the title part seemed an off-putting affront, with both bel canto and bravura reined in at the service of Orlando's unstable psyche. …

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