Fool for love: Handel’s Orlando at the Barbican

Some operas are just begging for a strapline: and if Orlando had one, it would surely be “Dorinda’s Dreadful Day”. First, Dorinda is plagued by doubts that the handsome African prince Medoro truly loves her (which he doesn’t), but optimistically decides to give him the benefit of the doubt, because she loves him. Then she’s informed of the fact she has been summarily dumped: even worse, it’s Medoro’s new girlfriend Angelica (Orlando’s erstwhile love) who gives her the bad news, along with a rather tactless present (a ring). Angelica and Medoro then together smother the broken-hearted Dorinda with a Smug Couples barrage of useless advice: “Don’t worry; you’ll find someone else; you’re a lovely person; you have so much love to give”, etc, all as infuriating as it is patronising, and Dorinda’s response is understandably bitter, producing a very witty trio.

Just when you are thinking that what the poor girl really needs is a hot bath and a large glass of wine, followed urgently by a completely new set of friends, we discover that Orlando has meanwhile destroyed her home in his mad rage, so Dorinda can’t even go back to her beloved cottage. It’s a now just a pile of rubble, like the rest of her life. A dreadful day indeed: and Carolyn Sampson plays Dorinda with fine dramatic energy which celebrates the dark joke of her worsening situation. Sampson’s charming confessional, conspiratorial style engages the audience from her first aria: in a performance full of joy and increasingly bravura ornamentation, she genuinely shines with love for Handel’s music, and for Dorinda.

Click here to read my full review on Bachtrack.



Bougereau Young Shepherdess

Time for some new life choices: William Adolphe Bouguereau‘s Young Shepherdess, 1868



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