Opera Review: Orlando, by George Frederic Handel


I saw performance of Orlando in New York City put together by a nonprofit known as the Cantanti Project. The plot involves four characters involved in a love quadrangle, and one wizard who oversees the action with his wise recommendations and helpful interventions.

Orlando is a great warrior who is also madly in love with a woman named Angelica. Orlando has to make a choice between pursuing glory in battle and pursuing love with Angelica. He naively thinks he combine the two competing drives, and ends up in near-catastrophe. Angelica does not reciprocate his love, and is herself infatuated with Medora. Dorinda is a shepherdess who observes the action and is also in love with Medoro. Zoroastro is the wizard who tries to protect these mortals from their own intra and interpersonal conflict.

At one point Orlando sees an inscription on a tree made by both Angelica and Medora that signifies their love. He becomes unhinged by jealousy. Now illicitly combining his roles as warrior and lover, Orlando becomes dangerous, desperate to seek revenge on Angelica for spurning him for another man. Orlando is unjust, since he has no claim on Angelica’s affection–they are not married and so Angelica is free to give her heart as she pleases. Zoroastro tries to bring Orlando back to sanity, but for much of the opera he is in a state of intense mental torment, at one point imagining himself descending into Hades and at another mistaking Dorinda for Angelica.

Orlando goes so far as to burn the cottage of Medoro, killing him in the process. He is in a state of murderous rage until Zoroastra heals his mind. Orlando looks upon his work with horror, but finds that he was lucky enough not to have murdered Angelica.

This opera is, at least in part, a critique of love. What really is love? Does Orlando love Angelica? He often claims he does, but, judging by his actions, he does not. Or, is Orlando’s great passion evidence of love? Also, does love really provide us with happiness? Or, does it make up dependent on other people, and so, if they are not cooperative or have to leave us for some reason, we end up falling apart? Is it better to remain cool and detached like the wizard Zoraster?

I really enjoyed this opera and I would like to know more about the art form. It requires a lot of study, including mastering a foregin language, as this opera is in Italian. The singing is also very advanced, more so than Broadway singing or that of popular music.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s