Haydn’s Orlando Paladino is a “heroic comedy” based, of course, on Ariosto. In this version Angelica, queen of Cathay, and her lover Medoro have fled to a remote castle to get away from Orlando who is in love, of course, with Angelica. There’s a shepherd and shepherdess, a sorceress, a squire and Rodomonte, the king of Barbary thrown into the mix and various misadventures ensue until the sorceress, Alcina, dips Orlando into the waters of Lethe causing him to forget being in love with Angelica and it all ends happily. There are also a bunch of non-singing characters who, I think represent the “dangerous” people of this remote country. For reasons I haven’t quite fathomed they include a bishop and a bearded air hostess.
This production, from the Staatsoper unter den Linden, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Rodomonte is straight out of Pirates of Penzance, Eurilla, the shepherdess, looks like a cross between a schoolgirl and a heavily armed member of the US Postal Service. Orlando, in his mad phase, boasts a quite spectacular beard and dreads but reappears, sane, in the crispest of military uniforms. Angelica is much attached to a portrait of herself as Miss Asia Pacific. There’s a lot of business with a severed hand. And so it goes on. Nigel Lowery and Amir Hosseinpour’s production is witty and inventive but very busy and, at times and especially on video, rather confusing. I really need to watch it a second time.
Performances are generally quite excellent. Sunhae Im is charming and very funny as the shepherdess Eurilla. Marlis Petersen gives an impressive vocal display as Angelica and Alexandrina Pendatchanska is pleasing on the ear as a well characterised Alcina. Among tghe guys both Pietro Spagnoli as Rodomonte and Victor torres as the squire Pasquale camp things up rather nicely. Tom Randle sings beautifully as Orlando and Magnus staveland is a solid Medoro. René Jacobs directs the excellent period instruments Freiburger Barockorchester and gets a suitably witty and sprightly performance.
Video direction is by Andreas Morell and it’s a bit variable. As previously noted there’s a lot going on and morell doesn’t capture it all by any means. There are places where we get a better idea of what’s going on, helped by a really good picture on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD sound is also top notch. The only extras on the disc are a few trailers which is a shame because some insight into this production would have been very welcome. The same goes for the booklet which has a track listing and a short piece on the history of the opera but nothing to speak of on this production. There are English, French, german and Italian subtitles.
It’s really nice to have a well performed and recorded version of one of Haydn’s operas. He is, in my opinion, much underrated as an opera composer. I’ll have to take another look at the production though!