Haydn: Orlando Paladino

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn
WORKS: Orlando Paladino
PERFORMER: Patricia Petibon, Christian Gerhaher, Michael Schade, Werner Güra, Johannes Kalpers, Malin Hartelius, Markus Schäfer, Elisabeth von Magnus, Florian Boesch; Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus HarnoncourtDeutsche Harmonia Mundi
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 73370Ê2
Haydn’s ‘heroic-comic drama’ draws on episodes from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, already a rich source of operatic material for Handel and Vivaldi. In Haydn’s hands the characters parade themselves with mock-pomposity and sometimes deliberately exaggerated pathos, but the element of parody never affects the beauty of the music itself – indeed, in its succession of arias each seemingly more profound than the last, and its strikingly dramatic accompanied recitatives, Orlando paladino stands at the summit of Haydn’s art as an operatic composer. All he lacked was the psychological insight that Mozart so deftly brought to the genre and an ability to write ensembles that simultaneously express conflicting emotions.

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Until now, anyone with an interest in Haydn’s operas has had to rely largely on Antal Dorati’s 1970s recordings. In the case of Orlando paladino, Dorati’s performance comes with the advantage of Arleen Auger’s affecting account of the central role of Angelica, but for the rest it’s much less well cast than this new version from Nikolaus Harnoncourt, nor can it compare in dramatic intensity. As the shepherdess Eurilla, Malin Hartelius is considerably livelier and more characterful than her more famous counterpart Elly Ameling on Philips, while Patricia Petibon’s Angelica is as touching as Auger’s. Markus Schäfer relishes all the humour of the Leporello-like part of Orlando’s squire, Pasquale, and Christian Gerhaher, Michael Schade and Werner Güra make up as fine a trio as one could wish for in the remaining principal male roles. Strongly recommended to all

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Haydn lovers. Misha Donat