Jere, Dale, Richard and I saw a concert performance of Handel's *Orlando* at Carnegie Hall on 3/13. Harry Bicket and The English Concert have been doing concert performances of Handel operas at Carnegie for a few years and will continue doing them for a while. This is the first one I've heard, and I might be back.
The orchestra was sublime, their playing was fleet and crisp, full of drama and pathos. Bicket conducted from the harpsichord, which is always a delight to see. He has a great sense of the style: it's refined but never precious.
There were five singers - - the bass, Kyle Ketelsen, had the small role of Zoroastro, I'll talk about him first. He has low notes for days and was always clear in the florid passages, not an easy thing for a man with a low voice (I often have trouble hearing the quick little notes in a low man's voice, they have a tendency to get covered by the orchestra). Plus it must be said, he is a super hunk. Look up a photo of him online, there are a few juicy photos of hi with his shirt off. He kept his shirt on for Orlando, which was entirely in keeping with the aura of the show - - he looked quite gentlemanly in his white tie and tails, and he showed great aplomb brushing back his tails when he sat.
I'll discuss the other four singers in ascending order of how I liked them. Sadly, I'm starting with counter tenor Iestyn Davies, who sang the title role of Orlando.
He has a sweet voice, but this role did him no favors. It lies too low for him, we often had trouble hearing him. This is a common problem with counter tenors. This is especially unfortunate in this opera, because Orlando has all the most interesting music, and Davies just didn't deliver.
And I might have trouble articulating this, but his stage deportment was annoying. The first problem was what he was wearing: every man onstage was wearing white tie and tails, and he was wearing a black suit and a black mock turtleneck. Who told him this was a good idea? That sartorial decision was not informed by his character, by the way. The greater issue was his acting style. I wouldn't say that this was staged, but the singers did move around a bit, and emoted in a slight and tasteful way. They behaved with class, let's leave it at that. Davies did not. He was often in the position of having an aria addressed to him, so he sat near the singer, and more often than not, had his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. This was completely out of step with the style of the performance: this is Handel, not *The Young and the Restless.*
Soprano Carolyn Sampson sang the role of Dorinda. Lovely voice, lovely young woman. Her voice didn't seem quite on track with the music - - she wasn't as agile as I would like. She sounded to me more like a Mozart singer than a Handel singer. But then she had a show-stopping aria in the third act, and she knocked the ball out of the park. So maybe she simply put all her eggs in that basket, and hadn't worked as hard on her other four or five arias?
Mezzo Sasha Cooke sang the role of Medoro. What a gorgeous voice, rich and ripe, and still moves around rapidly (and clearly) when needed. I heard her years ago as Kitty Oppenheimer in *Doctor Atomic* at the Met, she was fantastic in that. I was curious to hear her in this, the two roles couldn't be more different in terms of their vocal writing. She was a wonder, one of the high points of the show. I'm headed back to Carnegie in April to her hear in Mahler's *Das Lied von der Erde*. I'm even more excited for that now than I was before.
The star of the show was soprano Erin Morley as Angelica. Wow what a voice. Perfect for Handel - - clear and full of ping, also full of color. More than any of the other singers, she sang with ease and freedom, and her voice really sounded at home in the piece. Every one of her arias (and there were many) was something special. She's on her way up: she's singing Sophie in the Met's new production of *Der Rosenkavalier* - - I was already planning on seeing that, but now I'll have my eye on HER. She's a real find.