Nestled in the middle of this year's Mostly Mozart Festival, which is jam-packed with Stravinsky and a generous helping of Mozart (most notably in the latter with a sold-out, two-show run of Don Giovanni staged and conducted by Iván Fischer), a concert production of Handel's Orlando quietly slips in but guarantees a Baroque bang.
Conductor Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are heading east from their home in San Francisco to offer up their account of Handel's 1733 opera that examines the unrequited love between Charlemagne soldier Roland and Pagan princess Angelica. Speaking of the work in connection with Mozart (born just three years prior to Handel's death), McGegan cites Orlando as some of Handel's finest aria work. Plot-wise, it also shows a similar side to the same coin occupied by Don Giovanni: While Giovanni focuses an amorous energy that ultimately becomes his downfall on as many women as he can, Orlando focuses that same energy—bearing the same consequences—on one woman.
Also like Mozart—and, to some degree, Stravinsky—Handel's vocal works also focus on the human aspects, even if some of the characters (Roland/Orlando, Cathay queen Angelica, African prince Medoro) have regal or legendary titles. "Look through [the titles] and it's your mother-in-law, it's your sister," joked McGegan for a New York Philharmonic interview. "They're people who've had these situations of love and loss."
Even the otherworldly intervention of magician Zoroastro, the core of Orlando relies on emotions: The titular character has a tempestuous mad scene, Medoro sings a verdant and understated aria, "Verdi allori" as a counterbalance, and even comic relief can be found in the shepherdess character of Dorinda. An international cast accompanies McGegan on his journey, including Clint van der Linde in the title role, Dominique Labelle as Angelica, Diana Moore as Medoro, Yulia Van Doren as Dorinda and Wolf Matthias Friedrich as Zoroastro. There are a number of winning performances to catch in this unusually busy summer, but you'd be mad to miss this.
Handel, Mozart and Stravinsky: What makes them distinct is obvious, but what ties them all together? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.