In Quest of Handel Operas – June 2019-July 2020

During the next year and a half, I am scheduled to review performances of contemporary productions of four operas composed by the great baroque composer, George Frideric Handel.

Orlando (Handel), San Francisco Opera, June 9(m), 15, 18, 21 and 27, 2019

Handel’s “Orlando”, based on Ariosto’s fanciful 16th century tale inspired by of the characters of the medieval epic “The Song of Roland” has been time-shifted by Director Harry Fehr (San Francisco Opera debut) from its fantasy world to British-German World War II. The production was first performed at the Scottish Opera in 2011.

[Below: Nurses (supernumeraries, right and left) perform tests on the shell-shocked Royal Air Force pilot Orlando (Sasha Cooke, center); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

Three San Francisco Opera veterans play key roles. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is Orlando, soprano Heidi Stober is Angelica and bass Christian Van Horn is Zoroastro.

Making their San Francisco Opera debuts are counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen as Medoro and Christina Gansch as Dorinda. Other debuts include Maestro Christopher Moulds who will conduct, and production designer Yannis Thavoris.

[For my performance review, see: Review: A Finely Sung “Orlando” Melds Handel’s Seductive Music with Harry Fehr’s Surreal Staging – San Francisco Opera, June 9, 2019.]

Semele (Handel), Opera Philadelphia, September 19, 21(m), 24, 26 and 28(m), 2019 (Perelman Theater)

Handel’s opera is about the romantic dalliances of the god Jupiter with the mortal Semele, and the machinations of Jupiter’s wife, Juno, to intervene in her husband’s wanderings. Along the way, we learn about the origins of the god Bacchus.

[Below: The wedding guests surround Semele (Amanda Forsythe, center); edited image, based on a Dominic Mercier photograph, courtesy of Opera Philadelphia.]

Amanda Forsythe is Semele. Alek Shrader sings the roles of Jupiter and Apollo; Daniela Mack the roles of Juno and Ino. Sarah Shafer is Iris, Tim Mead in Athamas and Alex Rosen is Cadmus and Somnus.

Maestro Gary Thor Wedow conducts; James Darrah directs.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Handel’s “Semele” Excels with Amanda Forsythe, Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader, Opera Philadelphia, September 19, 2019.]

Saul (Handel), Houston Grand Opera, October 25, 27(m), November 2, 5 and 8, 2019.

Director Barrie Kosky staged Handel’s oratorio “Saul” for the Glyndebourne Festival, permitting an exploration of the romantic feelings between Saul’s son Jonathan and the Israeli hero David.

[Photo: Dancers in the Houston Grand Opera’s Barrie Kosky production of Handel’s “Saul”; edited image, based on a Lynn Lane photograph, courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera. .]

Christopher Purves is Saul, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen is David, Paul Appleby is Jonathan, Andriana Churchman is Michael, Pureum Jo is Merab, Chad Shelton is th Witch of Endor and Keith Jameson performs the four roles of Abner, the High Priest, Amalekite and Doeg.

Maestro Patrick Summers conducts. Donna Stirrup directs the revival of Barrie Kosky’s production.

[For my performance review, see: Review: A Visually, Vocally Stunning “Saul” at Houston Grand Opera: – October 25, 2019.]

All performances scheduled for the 2020 San Francisco Opera Summer Season were canceled, due to the Covid19 pandemic:

Partenope (Handel), San Francisco Opera, June 12, 18, 21(m), 23 and 27, 2020. 

Although Queen Partenope is the legendary founder of Naples, Italy, English National Opera enlisted director Christopher Alden to stage Handel’s “Partenope” in a 1920s Continental salon.

Alden’s production traveled to the San Francisco Opera in 2014, where it became one of the memorable experiences of the season. 

[Below: Sarah Tynan as Partenope at the English National Opera; edited image, based on an Alastair Muir photograph for the English National Opera.]

For the production’s return in Summer 2020, Louise Alder will debut as Partenope, Franco Fagioli will debut as Arsace as will Jakub Józef Orlinski as Armindo and Hadleigh Adams as Ormindo. Repeating their roles from 2014 are Daniela Mack as Rosmira and Alek Shrader as Emilio.

Maestro Christopher Moulds conducts; Roy Rallo directs the revival of Christopher Alden’s production.

This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed through August 2019:

Penella’s “El Gato Montes” at the Los Angeles Opera, Kern’s “Show Boat” at the Glimmerglass Fesitval and Britten’s “Billy Budd” at the Central City Opera [See In Quest of Varied Operatic Repertory – February-August 2019.]

O’Regan’s “The Phoenix” at the Houston Grand Opera; and Corigliani’s “The Ghosts of Versailles” and Tesori’s “Blue” at the Glimmerglass Festival [See In Quest of 21st Century American Operas – November, 2018 – August, 2019.]

Dvorak’s “Rusalka” at the San Francisco Opera and “The Thirteenth Child” at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Operas Based on Myths and Fairy Tales – November 2018 – August 2019.]

Verdi’s “Falstaff” at The Dallas Opera, and Bizet’s “The Pearlfishers” and Janacek’s “Jenufa” at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Less Often Performed Repertory Operas – October 2018 – August 2019.]

Puccini’s “La Boheme” at the Santa Fe Opera and Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Glimmerglass Festival [See In Quest of Italian Opera Favorites, October 2018-August 2019.]

Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” at the Los Angeles Opera and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Houston Grand Opera [See In Quest of Mozart Operas (October 2018-April 2019)].