This recording of Orlando was done in a studio and released by the reconstituted Archiv Produktion label in 2014, but it features the cast and musicians from a 2012 live production in Brussels. For some this may be an improvement; the 2012 staging was controversial, presenting Ariosto's king Orlando as a kind of arsonist. Here everything is stripped down to the musical elements, which are very fine indeed. A good deal of the opera's abundant stage machinery is retained, and here and elsewhere the Archiv engineering team does very well. The ensembles give the feel of listening to an opera, but nothing is boxy or distorted. Orlando, rediscovered only in 1959, ranks among the most unjustifiably neglected of Handel's operas. Its modern champion, countertenor Bejun Mehta, reprises the title role here, and his performance is well worth the price of this two-disc set. The climax of the opera comes with Orlando's descent into madness at end of Act II, and Mehta's performance here, totally absorbed in the role and not at all histrionic, is extraordinary. He's backed by a strong international cast, notably bass Konstantin Wolff as Zoroaster (who has the task of talking Orlando down), and in all this could be the performance that puts Orlando on operatic stages, not just in recorded excerpt compilations.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Orlando, HWV 31|
Act 1. Accompagnato. Quanto diletto avea / Recitativo. Io non so che sian questi / Accompagnato. Itene pur fremendo / Recitativo. Quegli è il famoso Orlando
Act 1. Recitativo. M'hai vinto al fin / Duettino. Ritornava al suo bel viso / Recitativo. Spera, mio ben