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An Entrancing Evening

'Orlando' at Sadler's Wells,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


For a new opera company, whose first opera was Rossini's La Scala di Seta and whose next production is of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, to choose to stage a Handel opera seria would seem positively reckless. Handel operas are a notoriously tricky genre to stage but Alessandro Talevi, artistic director of Independent Opera, displayed remarkably adroit confidence in his staging of Handel's Orlando at Sadlers Wells last week (seen on Saturday 11 November 2006).

Independent Opera is a new company devoted to small-scale opera productions using young singers. The intention is to give young singers, directors and others a platform in London.

Their production of Orlando was directed and designed by Talevi, with costumes by Cordelia Chisholm along with video from Dick Straker and Finn Ross and puppetry from Michael Fowkes and Chiara Ambrosio. With the inclusion of video, puppetry and shadow animation, the production could easily have become gimicky, but it says much for Talevi's discipline and confidence in Handel's music that it did not.

William Towers in the title role of Handel's 'Orlando' at Sadler's Wells. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
William Towers in the title role of Handel's 'Orlando' at Sadler's Wells. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

The opera was performed in the Lilian Bayliss Studio. This is a good intimate space but has no pit. Talevi's solution was to place the small orchestra in the middle of the stage and surround them by a circular platform on which most of the action took place. At times, the singers even used the orchestra 'pit' as an exit route.

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Copyright © 15 November 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


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