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.
This is another of those Arthaus Blu-ray disks that’s sold at a silly cheap price as a carrier for two hours of trailers from the Arthaus catalogue. That said, it’s very high quality indeed. GIlbert Deflo’s production is, in the end, quite conventional though with careful and effective Personenregie. He does trick us a bit at the start. The scene opens with what is, apparently, a rather louche 16th century court entertainment/orgy. There are bare breasted women and dancers of both sexes dressed as Satanic imps. Everyone is in period costume including Rigoletto with jester hat, bells etc. The scene is, perhaps, what we expect. The “ladies” are very receptive to the duke’s advances. The men are resentful but not actively so. Then in comes Monterone in mid 19th century dress to denounce the proceedings and we, perhaps slowly, realise that this is a costume party. From there on there’s nothing very tricksy. The story gets told effectively and straightforwardly. We have been pulled, effortlessly, from the time of the libretto to the time of first performance and the parallels are drawn.