Orlando - Further information

Georg Friedrich Händel: Orlando. David Daniels Orlando: David Daniels Georg Friedrich Händel: Orlando. David Daniels
Georg Friedrich Händel
Unknown librettist, based on a text by Carlo Sigismondo Capece after Ludovico Ariosto

World Première on 27th January 1733 at the King's Theatre Haymarket, London


Georg Friedrich Händel composed Orlando very quickly in about a month at the
beginning of the 1732/1733 season which opened at the King's Theatre in London on 4th November. The work had its première on January 27th 1733. Händel had been granted British citizenship some five years earlier, was comfortably ensconced in his London home and was generally considered to be sitting at the top of the totem pole of cultural fame, at the peak of his artistic prowess and highly regarded by a London society well known for its sophistication. Storms were, however, brewing. London, always a city of deadly intrigues, could not allow one composer to rule the roost even if his company was the King's opera. Händel's rivals, the "Opera of the Nobility", were in the ascent with Porpora as resident composer and the great and hugely popular Farinelli as the star singer and they were attracting more and more of Händel's traditional public and subscribers.

So it was that Mr Händel's new work, Orlando, would be his last première at the King's Theatre and the six operatic works that were to follow were to be produced at the new, but far less prestigious, Covent Garden Theatre. Orlando, therefore, represents the end of an era. At the same time it also represents a new beginning in that, musically and dramatically, this work departs from established artistic traditions. There are, for example, fewer da capo arias in this work and those that exist often deviate from the strict form. There is, further, the introduction of a novelty: a genuine mad scene, "Ah, stigie larve!", a forerunner of Donizetti's great mad scenes in Lucia di Lammermoor or Anna Bolena; there is extensive use of magic and a preoccupation with philosophy incorporated in the character of Zoroastro; we see, also, in this work, an important development in the way "supernumeraries" are used as contributors to the action personifying Zoroastro's genii. The work also suggests the start of a grander project in that the libretto, after Capece's L'Orlando ovvero La gelosa pazzia was, in turn, based on Lodovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando furioso so that this was to be the first part of a kind of "Ariosto trilogy" being swiftly followed by Ariodante and Alcina in 1735, two works we have also presented here in Munich recently.

Orlando confronts the conflict in the mind, psyche and emotions of the hero. The conflict is between him choosing the path of glory and achievement or choosing the path of selfless love. These issues are relevant to everyone of us today and the tortuous path towards the reconciliation of love with ambition gives the dramaturgy of Orlando a rich texture of emotion to draw upon together with constantly beautiful and accessible music. Because the drama takes place in a fantasy world with absolutely no historical relevance or reference it is especially appealing to today's sensibilities in its intense concentration on the psychological states of the characters.

The world première of Orlando was much admired by connoisseurs of the time:
the wealthy musician and landowner Sir John Clerk wrote, "I never in all my life heard a better piece of musick nor better perform'd!" The intrigues against Händel were getting the upper hand, however, and the King's Theatre was not full at the première. After the first run of performances the piece was never revived by Händel and remained unheard until 1992 when it was first produced in Halle. The work has never been performed in Munich.

The Händel-Monteverdi-Cavalli series here at the Bavarian State Opera has
captured the public’s imagination in Munich and ignited the infectious baroque revival throughout Europe over the last 12 years. We are proud and enthusiastic about presenting the first Munich production of Orlando as our last baroque re-discovery during this Intendanz and the work will be conducted by vor Bolton, directed by David Alden and feature the extraordinary David Daniels in the title role which was originally composed for the great Senesino. Rosemary Joshua will sing the role of Angelica with Alastair Miles taking the role of the magician Zoroastro. This "re-discovery" will have its Munich première on 19th May 2006 in the National Theatre.

Sir Peter Jonas
March 2005