* Notes *
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened a run of Händel's Orlando last night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The opera was semi-staged, which made a rather silly opera perhaps even less convincing than it might have been. Production aside, the music was lovely. The orchestra sounded cohesive and jaunty under Nicholas McGegan. The strings were crisp and clean, and though the woodwinds were less than perfect in the first Sinfonia, they were otherwise very good. The horns fared pretty well in Act I, Scene 3's "Non fu già men forte Alcide," only a handful of errors were noted.
The cast was uniformly strong. Bass-baritone Wolf Matthias Friedrich (Zoroastro) did gasp slightly, but has a warm, rich tone. Susanne Rydén was very funny as Dorinda, and her crystalline voice was not without warmth. Sometimes I was not always sure she was hitting the middle of each note, especially at the beginning of Act I, when she chirped through "Quando spieghi i tuoi tormenti." The mezzo-soprano, Diana Moore, had impressive breath control, and her big aria in Act II as Medoro came off fantastically.
The fullness of Dominique Labelle's voice worked nicely for Angelica, she was never overwhelming and her vibrato was under control. One of the best moments of the opera was the trio at the end of Act I featured Labelle, Moore and Rydén. In the title-role, countertenor William Towers may have started off a bit thinly, but sang beautifully for the rest of the evening. His "Gia lo stringo, gia l'abbraccio" in Act III was wonderful.
* Tattling *
Aside from some whispering in the first act, the audience members around me on the right side of the orchestra level were attentive and quiet. There was noticeable audience attrition at the second intermission, as the performance was 3.5 hours long.