Saturday 10 March 2007

Handel's Orlando at Covent Garden

To Covent Garden last night to see Handel's Orlando. It was a pleasant change to go to see one of his works performed as it should be, with not messing about with intervals. The Royal Opera simply bit the bullet and performed 3 Acts (1 hour each) with 2 intervals: in at 7.00pm out at 10.45pm. Over the years we've had a variety of attempts to perform his long 3-Act works in a different way. Hercules at the Barbican was one of a number of presentations which merged 2 acts, to give 2 very unequal halves and a first 'half' of positively Wagnerian length. The alternative seems to be to put the interval in the 'wrong' place in the middle of Act 2. Which I don't like either, so bravo to Covent Garden.

Francisco Negrin's production uses dancers as Mars, Venus and Cupid, to help make obvious the work's theme of the struggle between love and glory. Cupid wears little beyond draping round his mid-section and Venus has bare breasts. For some reason the audience around me seemed to find the dancers amusing. Even when Dorinda was singing about the trouble and perils of love, almost wrestling with Cupid, the audience sniggered at his every move. This is an example of how a producer and designer can scupper a production by underestimating the audiences reaction to something on stage. Its a nuisance, but nice middle class English people (especially women) find nudity uncomfortable and will react with laughter, no matter how serious the intent. The was particularly true when Dorinda seems to skewer Cupid in the groin with an arrow.

But Mr. Negrin is a southern European so probably does not really understand our Northern hang-ups about sex.

A full review of the opera (rather than this little rant) will appear in due-course

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