I’m usually a bit leery of watching older recordings of 19th century Italian opera. The aesthetic is rarely my thing. But, when I came across a recording of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco directed by Werner Herzog I had to take a look. It was a pretty weird experience. It would hardly have been odder if Klaus Kinski had sung the title role. It’s a production from the Teatro Communale di Bologna and it was recorded in 1990.
Handel’s Orlando is pretty classic opera seria stuff. It’s based on an episode in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Orlando, a great soldier in Charlemagne’s army has lost his ardour for military glory because he has fallen desperately in love with the pagan princess Angelica, who is in turn in love with another man, Medoro. Orlando cannot accept this and he is driven to madness, prevented from causing absolute carnage only by the magician Zoroastro (who eventually restores his sanity). There’s also a shepherdess, Dorinda, who is also in love with Medoro, but comes to accept her lot. It’s all a bit daft and screams for a strong production concept. In his 2008 Zürich production Jens-Daniel Herzog finds one. He relocates the action to a military psychiatric hospital during, or just after, WW1. Orlando is suffering from battle fatigue or PTSD and Zoroastro is a psychiatrist. Angelica is still a princess but Dorinda has become a nurse. It all works rather well.