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Handel Orlando

Orlando – Bejun Mehtan
Angelica – Rosemary Joshua
Medoro – Anna Bonitatibus
Dorinda – Camilla Tilling
Zoroastro – Kyle Ketelsen

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Charles Mackerras

Francisco Negrin – Director
Anthony Baker – Set designs
Wolfgang Göbbel – Lighting
Ana Yepes – Associate Director and Choreographer
[Sung in Italian with English surtitles]

The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, London, 3 March 2007

This was one of our happiest nights at the opera for many a month. Orlando is unusual within the Handel canon, its peculiarities well explained in a useful article in the programme book, Breaking the mould by Andrew V. Jones.

From the first few minutes we capitulated to the serendipitous totality of alluring and ingenious sets, sensitive direction by Francisco Negrin (and unlike some other commentators - pace Classical Source - we had no problem with the choreography and ever present dancers).

The intimacy of Handel opera (they were not designed for huge voices in vast opera houses) was enhanced for us by being seated in the very front of the stalls, and by the raising of the orchestra so that some of the musicians were level with us and with front stage, able to see the action and be seen by ourselves, so that the fragile sounds of the period instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment were not lost deep in the usual pit. We cannot vouch for how it will have sounded in the farther reaches of the Royal Opera House.

As universally acknowledged, Bejun Mehtan is a sensational counter tenor, and I cannot recall another who has brought such commanding authority on the Royal Opera stage; I hope he earns as much as the celebrated top tenors! He stopped the show with his "mad scene" and so did Camilla Tilling in her subtle assumption of the most interesting character, the always unlucky shepherdess Dorinda (pictured with Anna Bonitatibus). Her expressive vocal line was immaculate, and she displayed a whole range of sadness and frustration throughout. The other parts were all taken strongly and the whole gave continual pleasure through a long evening (thankfully, given with two intervals).

The evening was also a celebration of Sir Charles Mackerras at 80, conducting with sprightly vigour and greeted with prolonged applause at each opportunity.

For more detailed reports of the first night, see those collected by The Opera Critic, with a full set of ROH production images

Peter Grahame Woolf

For some other representations of the furious Orlando, see our reports of a production of Handel's opera by Independent Opera, and an interesting Vivaldi workshop event at BAC.

Photos by Bill Cooper