Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Thurs, Apr 8, 7:00 pm, Herbst Theatre
Orlando by George Frideric Handel
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Dominique Labelle, soprano
Susanne Rydén, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
William Towers, countertenor
Wolf Matthias Friedrich, bass-baritone
I was impressed by the strong & consistent cast for this performance of Handel's Orlando by PBO. The tall & slim countertenor William Towers has great breath control & a solid sound that is not at all hooty. Some of his high notes are surprisingly big. I liked his furious coloratura in his 1st aria in Act II & his handling of the abruptly contrasting moods of the mad scene that closes the act. I also liked soprano Domique Labelle's dramatic singing. Mezzo Diana Moore has a deep, weighty sound that was appropriately masculine. Bass Wolf Matthias Friedrich, sporting a long hair cut & prowling around with big gestures, has a great stage presence. I enjoyed his equally big voice & aggressive coloratura. Soprano Susanne Rydén was a plucky shepherdess, & she gamely tackled the extreme jumps in register Handel wrote for her Act III aria about love's effects.
Although the singers were on stage & the orchestra in a pit arrangement, this was barely a staged performance. We were given translations of the text, & I found it distracting to read stage directions involving genii, magical scene changes & characters being flown away & yet none of this was acknowledged on stage. The disconnect was even more weird when the singers mimed using props. There was a confusing moment at the end of Act I when someone seemed to be caught in the branches of a potted tree on stage. Still, the opera's inherent silly humor came through.
We sat upstairs, which was not full, though it looked completely filled downstairs. The audience never seemed bored or restless despite the 3 and 1/2 hour running time. It is a good thing I saw the Opera Tattler before the performance, otherwise I would have missed the early 7pm start time.