Saturday, November 20, 2010


I'd be willing to bet money, oh maybe up to a dollar, that Orlando was one of Handel's failures.  There isn't even one hit tune.  At the Sacramento Opera it is subtitled "Obsessive Love" and "Love Makes You Crazy."  Because the woman he loves does not return Orlando's love, in fact loves someone else, he massacres her and her lover.  There is a deus ex machina to save the situation, a potion brings Orlando to his senses, he goes back to being a hero, and all is well.  "How can nobility and heroism win out over beauty?" asks the heroine.  Boyfriend is cuter.  One of the few really sensible opera plots, as you can see.

Casting at the Sacramento Opera matches the original performance with male alto Orlando sung by a man, Randall Scotting, and male alto Medoro sung by a woman, Diana Tash.  Of course, our male alto is not the castrato Senisino but a countertenor.  If Randall's high notes are piercing, we have no way of knowing.  The role of Orlando is for a contralto with no high notes.  He looks quite pretty, every bit as cute as the adored Medoro, and leaps about the stage waving his sword in a very masculine way.  His falsetto is pretty masculine sounding.  Could I explain what that means?  Not really.  I enjoyed him, which as you may already know is rare for me when it comes to countertenors.

My friend informed me that the Sacramento Opera is a wholly owed subsidiary of Timm Rolek, the conductor.  If there is anything we don't like, we may blame him.  I usually like his conducting, though I think evidence of it is seen most often in the orchestra.  He is asking himself at this point "but...?"  He is not alone in thinking this.

They experimented with projections behind scaffolding for scenery.  This created the appropriate illusion of scene changes.  It was far more varied than would have been expected by audiences in Handel's time.  I thought the experiment was a success.  If you spend any time observing the Zurich Opera, you can't help noticing how little money goes into the sets.  Semele is a curtain, a bit of red carpet, a large bed and any number of matched chairs.  Don Giovanni is scaffolding very similar to that used in Sacramento.  Really cheap sets can work perfectly well.

Keeping pace with the contemporary scene probably requires putting a toe into Handel repertoire.  It worked well enough.  I expected the costumes to look something like the advertising--sequins--but they didn't.

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