San Francisco Opera Presents George Frideric Handel's Orlando, June 9–27

Release date: 5/6/2019    


Director Harry Fehr's Bold Production Sets Baroque Opera in World War II London

Cast of Five Leading Handel Singers Make Role Debuts Under the Baton of English Conductor Christopher Moulds in his First Company Engagement

ORLANDO.pdf  Photos Available

San Francisco Opera presents George Frideric Handel’s Orlando in a bold production by director Harry Fehr that updates the setting to World War II London during the Blitz. English conductor Christopher Moulds makes his Company debut leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and a cast of five leading Handelian artists, each of whom is singing their roles for the first time. Handel’s rarely performed work of love and madness will be presented June 9–27 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Fehr’s production sets Orlando in a British military hospital during the Second World War where the hero is a Royal Air Force pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As in the source material, the troubled Orlando navigates feelings of jealousy and rage when confronting his former lover, Angelica, who has since become romantically involved with Medoro, who, in turn, is the object of Dorinda’s affection. The magician Zoroastro, here a physician in the hospital, helps Orlando overcome his mental anguish and find peace after wartime. Featuring sets and costumes designed by Yannis Thavoris, projections designed by Andrzej Goulding, original lighting design by Anna Watson and revival lighting by Tim van t Hof, Fehr’s staging was first mounted by Scottish Opera and later by the Welsh National Opera.

Orlando requires five virtuosic singers who can portray the drama’s richly drawn characters while also singing Handel’s thrilling yet demanding vocal music. San Francisco Opera’s cast is headed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Orlando. Known for her “poise, radiance and elegant directness“ (Opera News) in a wide repertory, Cooke’s recent triumphs include creating the role of Laurene Powell Jobs in Mason Bates and Mark Campbell’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at Santa Fe Opera in 2017, a portrayal which she will reprise with San Francisco Opera in June 2020, and Goffredo in Handel’s Rinaldo at Carnegie Hall with Harry Bicket and The English Concert. She has previously performed Medoro in Orlando at London’s Barbican Hall and now takes on the opera’s title role with San Francisco Opera.

Following acclaimed performances as Zdenka in Strauss’ Arabella earlier this season, soprano Heidi Stober returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage as Angelica. Fast-rising countertenor and second-year Adler Fellow Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, who has scored successes in 2019 with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists and San Francisco Ballet, makes his mainstage debut as Medoro. In her premiere American engagement, Austrian soprano Christina Gansch is Dorinda. Bass-baritone and 2018 Richard Tucker Award-winner Christian Van Horn is the story’s deus ex machina, Zoroastro.

Orlando premiered in London in 1733, the first of three operas Handel created using plots drawn from Ludovico Ariosto’s Renaissance epic Orlando Furioso. Inspired by the Italian classic’s magical events, Handel’s trio of works—Orlando, Ariodante and Alcina—are among the composer’s finest for the opera stage. English musicologist and Handel scholar Winton Dean once hailed Orlando as “musically perhaps the richest of all Handel’s operas.” The bravura mad scene in Act II requires the artist in the title role to negotiate multiple metric shifts as the mood and intensity build.

In commemoration of the tercentenary of Handel's birth, San Francisco Opera presented Orlando in 1985 with renowned mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in the title role. The cast also featured Valerie Masterson as Angelica, Ruth Ann Swenson as Dorinda, Jeffrey Gall as Medoro and Kevin Langan as Zoroastro. This San Francisco Opera premiere, one of the earliest stagings of Orlando in the United States, was conducted by the late Sir Charles Mackerras in a production by John Copley.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the five performances of Orlando are scheduled for June 9 (2 p.m.), June 15 (7:30 p.m.), June 18 (7:30 p.m.), June 21 (7:30 p.m.) and June 27 (7:30 p.m.), 2019.

*For the complete press release, including full casting and calendar, please view the attached PDF.