Vivaldi’s Orlando Furioso: Taking the Humourous Path

GermanyGermany Vivaldi: Orlando Furioso, Frankfurter Opern und Museumorchester, Felice Venanzoni (conductor), Opernhaus Frankfurt, 14.2.2014 (JMI)

Vivaldi Orlando Furioso Oper Frankfurt Photo (C) Monika Rittershaus

Orlando: Delphine Galou
Alcina: Daniela Pini
Angelica: Sofia Fomina
Medoro: Paula Murrihy
Ruggiero: Lawrence Zazzo
Bradamante: Katharina Magiera
Astolfo: Bjorn Bürger

Opern Frankfurt
Direction: David Bösch
Sets: Dirk Becker
Costumes: Meentje Nielsen
Lighting: Olaf Winter

 Until recently, this Vivaldi opera, first performed in Venice in 1727, had been considered lost. Andrea Marcon, who had much to do with its rediscovery, was the conductor when this production premiered in Frankfurt 4 years ago. I had the chance to see the opera twice a few years ago in Jean-Christophe Spinosi’s concert tours through Spain, and I have great memories of those concerts.

 This reprise of the 2010 Frankfurt production was directed by David Bösch. I’ve attended works by this young stage director in Munich, and he has always seemed to me a talented and imaginative director. It requires a lot of creativity to stage Orlando Furioso ‒ the same goes for Handel’s Orlando ‒ as the poem by Ludovico Ariosto on which they are based is unreal and fantastic, and offers little credibility. Mr. Bösch decided to follow the path of humor, converting the  plot into a kind of comic opera, which I found a good solution to the often excessive stasis of Baroque operas. In general, the approach worked best in the second act. The actors were well-directed, and Mr. Bösch presented the characters, especially Orlando, as fairly simple and childlike. It would have helped to have better coordination between stage and orchestra pit as far as the approach to the opera was concerned: this staging needed a livelier, more energetic musical direction.

 The single set features an island with three rocks: one of them rotates in the second act to show, with a profusion of colorful balloons, the union of Angelica and Medoro. The costumes are brought up to modern times and are suitable and attractive.

 As I mentioned, I have a pleasant memory of Spinosi conducting this opera. In Frankfurt the baton was in the hands of Felice Venanzoni, who has worked in the past with both Andrea Marcon and Spinosi himself. His reading was good, but it was far from the energy and vivacity that Spinosi offered in 2011: the conducting was sound but somewhat short on imagination. There was a good performance from the  Frankfurter Opern und Museumorchester .

 The  cast did not offer big names, but all were excellent. The singers mastered the score and the stage requirements perfectly: an exemplary group.

 Orlando was French mezzo soprano Delphine Galou, whom I had seen in the same role in Madrid. Her stage performance was flawless, but vocally she was not at the same level: she is not the contralto that the part demands. At the premiere of this production Sonia Prina sang Orlando, and her voice is more contralto. In any case, Delphine Galou was a fully convincing interpreter.

 Daniela Pini was also quite good in the character of Alcina, although I prefer a mezzo soprano with a more important middle range than hers.

 Sofia Fomina is one of the latest additions to the Frankfurt roster, and she was a convincing Angelica. She sang with gusto and has an attractive voice with a fresh timbre and controlled volume.

 Paula Murrihy gave a remarkable performance as Medoro. This mezzo soprano is a very safe bet in any role. Lawrence Zazzo was a strong Ruggiero, at his best in his aria in the first act and offering unknown comic talents in the second. Katharina Magiera had a wide and attractive voice in the character of Bradamante. Finally, Björn Bürger offered a pleasant voice in the character of Astolfo, as well as good performing skills.

 José Mª. Irurzun