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Opera seria in 3 acts
Libretto based on Carlo Sigismondo Capece
First performed January 27 1733, King’s Theatre, Haymarket, London
Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
A man in a state of emergency: did a »wind« called love really turn the glorious super hero Orlando’s head and catapult his »sanity to the moon«?
Zoroastro warns the crazed warrior to control his passion, trying to make him see sense, which proves to be very difficult. A cocktail of emotions including jealousy and hate, distrust and overestimation of oneself turns Orlando into a shadow of himself. The reason: his unrequited love for Angelica, who is involved with Medoro, who desires Dorinda, whose lovesickness takes on less pathological dimensions. Orlando rants, rages and blows his top, revealing himself in his fantasies of brutality as a deeply unhappy man who has completely lost control.
George Frideric Handel found a promising subject in Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso about where the tortuous paths of passion lead. The title hero’s madness gave him an excuse to »break with correctness«, musically: his innovative score brings the form of opera seria seriously out of sync. Handel used radical, truly »mad« means when Orlando hallucinates about being in the underworld and completely loses his sense of reality. Even Senesino, the star castrato in the world premiere, found the role too unconventional and wasn‘t sure Handel wasn’t just trying to make a fool of him. Alongside virtuouso pearls and touching psycho-profiles his magic opera Orlando captivates with an ambiguity which proves that the tragic madness of a hero also has huge comical potential.