Georg Friedrich Händel 1685–1759
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 mins before performances begin and available here on video shortly before opening night
A man at the end of his wits: was it just a »wind« called love that turned superhero Orlando’s head and catapulted his »marbles to the moon«?
Zoroastro warns Orlando to control his tantrums and tries to bring him back to his senses, which proves an extremely difficult task. An emotional cocktail of jealousy and hate, mistrust and misjudged self-assuredness has turned Orlando into a shadow of himself. The reason, his unrequited love for Angelica, who’s involved with Medoro, who lusts after Dorinda, whose lovesickness assumes less abnormal extremes. Orlando rants, fumes and rages; revealing himself in his violent fantasies as a deeply unhappy person, who has completely lost control.
In Ludovico Ariosto‘s Orlando furioso Handel found a promising story about the tortuous (mis)guided path of passions. The title hero’s madness gave him the chance to move away from conventions in music too: his innovative score throwing the form of opera seria out of kilter.
When Orlando starts hallucinating in the underworld and completely loses touch with reality, Handel invented radical, »crazy« musical ideas. Senesino, the star castrato in the world premiere, found the role very unconventional and couldn’t shake the feeling off that Handel was trying to make a fool of him. In addition to all kinds of virtuoso gems and touching portraits of characters, magical Orlando captivates with an ambiguity that manages to milk comic potential from tragic love madness.