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The libretto’s preamble cautions against ‘the Illusion of [the] Passions’, a theme Handel explores in Orlando (and would revisit in Alcina), pushing back the formal constraints of opera seria to better depict such extreme emotional states as madness and despair. In Orlando, conventional da capo arias give way to a profusion of often irregular accompagnati, ariosos, cavatinas, duos and trios – an aesthetics of disruption employed most strikingly in Orlando’s famous Act II mad scene. Compared to the excellent recordings by Christopher Hogwood and William Christie, this new set matches neither the former’s finespun, airy magic nor the latter’s rich, expressive power. Nathan Berg brings impressive gravitas to Zoroastro and Amanda Forsythe is an appealingly bright-toned Dorinda, but Owen Willetts’ Orlando sounds rather hooty while Alexander Weimann’s anaemic direction underplays the drama. The booklet reprints the libretto, but without the stage directions that explain the action – a ridiculous omission.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing