Opera Scotland

Orlando 2011Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Orlando

Early rumours about this production gave rise to a certain understandable degree of apprehension. Harry Fehr's track record with Scottish Opera consisted of an excellent small-scale (with piano) and medium-scale (chamber orchestra, though still no chorus) staging of Cinderella, given an Austenite angle, followed by Cimarosa's Secret Marriage, convincingly transposed to the "new look" era of the 1950s. News that Orlando was to be relocated to Britain during the early phases of the Second World War, with experimental psychotherapy procedures on display was....er....interesting.

In the event, any fears were groundless, and the whole enterprise turned into something of a triumph for all concerned. Firstly, the musical side of things could hardly have been bettered. Paul Goodwin built on the work of previous experts on baroque style by handling the entire performance in a thoroughly convincing manner. The band, playing on modern instruments, still achieved an excellent sound, assisted by recorders and theorbo. The floor of the orchestra pit was raised almost to stalls level, and no musicians were tucked under the stage.

As for the singing, the title role showed Tim Mead as a far more committed creature of the stage than he had seemed to some in the Edinburgh Festival Admeto of 2009. Andrew Radley, another veteran of that generally excellent Admeto, made Medoro into a more important, and more red-blooded, character than usual. If anything, the women were even better. Sally Silver built on her achievements in the bel canto repertoire, coping with ease with all Handel's dramatic requirements. Claire Booth made a real character of Dorinda. Andreas Wolf perhaps had a slightly lighter voice that was ideal for Zoroastro, but he acted the role of the controlling magus with confidence. The English diction of all was admirably clear, rendering the supertitles almost superfluous.

And what of the production? It really was fascinating to see the effectiveness with which the characters all fitted into the new interpretation. Dorinda's lovely nightingale warblings gained an extra depth when she was in nurse's uniform. Zoroastro became a consultant in charge of Orlando's treatments, including electro-convulsive therapy. He had six acolytes who, though silent, maintained a generally sympathetic presence through all the procedures. The two RAF officers, Medoro - almost recovered from physical wounds - Orlando verging on mania as he struggled with mental ones; were equally convincing. Sally Silver's Angelica was also an unusually three-dimensional character.

Any complaints?  Only the noticeable fact that there were a mere five performances scheduled, and these were all in the central belt. Critics don't have to balance budgets. So it is perhaps unfair in these days of financial stringency to recall that in 1985 the Fettes staging was given eleven performances in six venues. Admittedly that was back in the days when the company toured in England (Newcastle, Liverpool and Oxford). But it still seems disappointing that only one of this year's five performances, the Glasgow matinee, was timed to be accessible to potential audience members from the Scottish provinces.

Although never announced as a co-production, this staging went on to be mounted in autumn 2015 by Welsh National Opera, conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini. The new cast included Lawrence Zazzo (Orlando), Rebecca Evans (Angelica), Robin Blaze (Medoro), Fflur Wyn (Dorinda) and Daniel Grice (Zoroastro).

Performance Cast

Orlando a knight in the service of Charlemagne

Tim Mead

Angelica Queen of Cathay

Sally Silver

Medoro an African Prince

Andrew Radley

Dorinda a shepherdess

Claire Booth

Zoroastro a magician

Andreas Wolf

Performance DatesOrlando 2011

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

15 Feb, 19.15 19 Feb, 14.15 26 Feb, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Mar, 19.15 5 Mar, 19.15

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