This is a really stellar musical performance. Philippe Jaroussky is otherworldly as Ruggiero – some of the most mesmerizing parts of this whole thing are when he is singing. The following is “sol per te mio dolce amore”:
I like the solo flutes in this section too. There are some really fun orchestral moments in this opera – another example is the solo cello part in Angelica’s Act I “Quanto somigli tempestoso mare.”
But pretty much all the performances are impressive. Among the highlights for me was Cangemi singing Angelica’s “Chiara al pari di lucida stella.” The performance itself is lovely, and it works dramatically too – Angelica at this point is deceiving Orlando with false promises of love, but by the time she gets to the end of the aria she appears to have convinced herself as well, and one can hardly blame her. I also continue to be a fan of Jennifer Larmore, whose voice has a distinctive sound that I really enjoy. She’s a fairly straightforwardly manipulative Alcina here (she’s always wandering through the action, giving people little nudges and tugs that they don’t notice – e.g. right before the abovementioned “chiara al pari”, when Angelica asks “where is Orlando?” Alcina is lurking in the back and makes a little gesture and Orlando scrambles up from where he had been collapsed half visible on the floor next to the enormous chair) but when the character’s moments of anguish and unhappiness arrive towards the opera’s end, Larmore is pretty riveting. In fact, this whole performance is a sort of parade o’ awesome female voices – we also get Romilda Basso as Medoro and Kristina Hammarström as Bradamante – Hammarström has the added distinction of singing the Handel version of Bradamante in that Vienna Opera production of Alcina that came out in 2011.
The center of the drama, though, is Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Orlando. Lemieux is amazing in this role – she completely inhabits it. Even down to the fake beard. From the beginning, Orlando is not a woman in a trousers role; Orlando is a big guy with an innocent-looking face and a scraggly beard. The singing is wonderful, and the dramatic conviction that accompanies it is probably the thing that holds this whole performance of the opera together.
And because I am too cheap to buy the 2004 audio version from iTunes, I am busily extracting audio from the DVD even as we speak.