Sunday, November 7, 2010

We will barock you (4): Bravissima Dorinda

Orlando, Théâtre des Champs Elysées - Paris, November 3 2010

Wonderful Lucy Crowe as Dorinda

David McVicar ..... director
Emmanuelle Haïm ..... conductor

Sonia Prina ..... Orlando
Henriette Bonde-Hansen ..... Angelica
Stephen Wallace ..... Medoro
Lucy Crowe ..... Dorinda
Nathan Berg ..... Zoroastro

Le Concert d'Astrée

David McVicar knows how to stage operas by Handel in that he manages to make them look both efficient and aesthetic. After his famous Giulio Cesare and then Semele [recently reran at TCE], he premiers Orlando at Théâtre des Champs Elysées (TCE).
What is efficient about his takes on Handel is that he succeeds to curb the far-fetchedness (ha!) of the stories in operas by Handel without straying from the narrative line of librettos. This is why his shows are modern in terms of acting and directing, but remain classical as far as approach to opera-staging is concerned. To cleverly adapt a libretto and make it "plausible" to today's public is particularly difficult in this opera. If you do not know the storyline of this opera please read the short synopsis e.g here.

Théâtre des Champs Elysées is the last place you'd expect to see a very inventive, atypical, or unconventional show, but in terms of quality in the given fach [conventional staging and feel-good shows with some clever details], the productions presented there are regularly good or very good. Besides a few choreographies which keep the show from monotony, McVicar introduced an extra character (Eros) who wanders on and off the stage whose theatrical appearance gives emphasis to every episode of the show.
The sets are cleverly constructed as to allow to quickly --but non-trivially!-- change scenes without interrupting the flow of the show. Since this production is commissioned by three theaters (Opéra de Lille and Opéra de Dijon were the other two) the luscious and elegant costumes could be afforded and that is definitely added value to the show.

Having said all of the above, the major weakness of the show remains is déjà vu side: same team, same routine. If you saw their previous shows, there is nothing new to capture your attention and sets this show apart from either Semele or Giulio Cesare, or... 

As for the singers/actors I thought they were all good.  Nathan Berg is not in a thrilling form but he pulls an honest performance. Stephen Wallace  was much better than last time I saw him (at TCE in Semele).  Henriette Bonde-Hansen is a fine singer specialized in and for this repertoire, but her handicap on the given night was that her co-star was Lucy Crowe who was absolutely splendid. She has  qualities of a modern opera singer who feels the stage like an actor backed by a superb soprano voice which is not only seductive for its timbre but also for its flexibility and projection. Lucy took a few risks that the crowd definitely knew how to appreciate and in the end she was clearly the most ovationed cast member. I believe today, with Mojca Erdmann, Lucy is the best soprano-léger in business. Sonia Prina had to sing big for this show because her role is very long, very demanding and scenically the most important for the whole show to succeed. She could not sing everything with same intensity and some of her arias were sung better than the others, but her total involvement in the character she was incarnating was more than impressive. Her boyish look was an asset too.
Emmanuelle Haïm and her orchestra were fine. They may be far from excellence of Les Arts Florissants but they keep improving and their performances today are highly respectable.

Below you can find several production photos which are not mine. Curtain call pics are mine. Also added is a short video excerpts from the show.

Orlando and Angelica

Orlando (Dorinda in the bg)

Dorinda in her little room

Rage of Orlando

Angelica and Medoro

Sonia Prina

Emmanuelle Haïm

Berg, Bonde-Hansen, Haïm, Prina, Crowe, Wallace

Ed: Several more images of the show in the following short video from France3-TV


  1. Oh no, not another interpolated allegorical Love figure! I am so tired of those cutesy little bow-wielding suckers. I've never seen one help and not interfere. McVicar is really good, though, maybe he used it well--but it's still a cliché.

  2. I hear you :)

    It's not too cute but if you saw one of his previous shows, this one won't surprise you at all. It is pleasant, it is well done -- never monotonous, and McVicar directs actors wonderfully as they seem to be perfectly absorbed into the show... but it's all too glossy for *my* taste.

  3. I love that video - thanks for the post. I'd give a lot to be able to see it.

  4. If you didn't see one of the McVicar's productions of Handel's operas it's definitely worth a go -- also much better live than on DVD ;)

  5. Oh yes, I love McVicar, if anyone can do this it's him. I think his Trovatore is one of the best things the Gelb era at the Met has produced yet, and I'm going to Adriana in London in a few weeks. He's not always very radical, but everything he does always is so clearly and thoroughly thought out.

    You were lucky to not experience Mary Zimmerman's Armida at the Met, which had a horribly irritating Love figure.

  6. Actually ORLANDO was designed by a different team from SEMELE; which was a different team from GIULIO CESARE, which was a different team from.......

    The "deja vu" effect you complain of must therefore be entirely my fault as the only constant factor.

    David McVicar