domingo, 8 de diciembre de 2013

An Enchanting Händel Orlando at Rennes Opera

Photo: Opéra de Rennes

Suzanne Daumann

This is a simple story, and Eric Vigner, who signs the staging, keeps it simple. No baroque opulence here, musical and elaborate stage movements, simple decorations and props, and it works wonderfully. A simple story, with simple and deep emotions, and this staging allows the music to hit the public right in the heart: Princess Angelica and the knight Medoro are in love with each other, but Dorinda, the pretty shepherdess, loves Medoro, too, and the knight Orlando loves Angelica – madly. The sage Zoroastro tells Orlando he should rather seek glory than love. But Orlando insists on his quest, and finds madness. Zoroastro will heal him at the last minute, and the happy end is secure. A great cast acts out this story on an almost naked stage. A few pearl curtains symbolize forests, fires and waves, some wooden panels the trees in the forest… Two strange mute characters, young actors in jeans and leather jackets, roguishly handsome and obviously twins (Grégoire and Sébastien Camuzet), act out fights, symbolize nature’s forces and furies and act as Zoroastro’s strong men. Their stage movements are coming out of the music, supple and dance-like and are not in the spectator’s way, but do illustrate the protagonists’ words.  The singers’ costumes are designed to identify their wearers: vaguely timeless suits with a sword for the knights, an elegant beige dress for the princess, and a slightly less elegant one for the shepherdess. As to Zoroastro, he is in a leather jacket and worker’s cap, bringing to mind engine drivers and Russian stage directors. Adriana Kucerova, soprano, incarnates Angelica, with a generous and clear voice, effortless in the demands of Händelian singing. She gives life to all of the complicated emotions of her character, torn between tender love, guilt and regret. Kristina Hammarström, mezzo-soprano, honeyed voice full of tenderness, is a touching Medoro who sincerely regrets hurting Dorinda in order to live his love for Angelica.  David DQ Lee, countertenor, is Orlando and takes us with him on his way to madness, credible and present in every scene and impressive in the madness scene, all the more so that he obviously has to fight the effects of the last two representations. If his voice sounds a bit blunt at the beginning, he is up and soaring whenever it is necessary. The madness scene is a perfect example how it all can work together in opera, staging, singers, orchestra, to build a bridge for the public to enter right into the characters’ hearts, the lighting throws a shine of madness into the public and one enters in a kind of trance. Sunhae Im, soprano, is the perfect sad little shepherdess, with her crystal clear fluting voice; and Luigi de Donato, bass, is a kind and authoritarian Zoroastro.  The excellent Ensemble Matheus supports the singers, essentially in sumptuous and nuanced string sounds, a clear and resounding harpsichord and a few woodwind interventions that are coming so timely that they are hardly noticed. Jean-Christophe Spinosi gives vitality and dramatic tension to the score, especially in the moments that might otherwise be frankly boring. And the evening ends in a party ambiance as the troupe, warmly applauded by an enchanted public, takes up the final chorus again and sketches a few dancing steps.

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