Programme Guide

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the most influential and eminent musicians of the 20th and early 21st centuries, put nearly every ingrained conviction of music history to the test, including the widely held opinion that Joseph Haydn, the “father” of the symphony and string quartet, did not meet the same standards as an opera composer. Harnoncourt recorded Armida, Il mondo della luna and Orlando paladino and also conducted the latter work in a concert performance with an outstanding ensemble of soloists and the Berliner Philharmoniker in March 2009.

Harnoncourt called Orlando paladino a “totally mad, modern opera”. “The combination of pathos and irony, of real feelings and completely overwrought wooing, puffed-up heroism and cowardice is carried to extremes in Haydn’s inspired interpretation.” It is not surprising that the conductor ranked the opera among “the best there was in opera at that time”.

The story of Orlando paladino has its origins in Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso, which first appeared in 1516 and inspired many operas during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Alcina who appears in Haydn’s work is also the heroine of an opera by Handel. In Haydn’s version she uses her magic powers to help the lovers Angelica and Medoro find happiness and escape the insanely jealous knight Orlando, who has threatened them with death. The buffo characters Eurilla and Pasquale provide humorous accents in the heroic-comic drama (dramma eroicomico). The ensemble of nine soloists is led by tenor Kurt Streit as Orlando, who appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker in the title role of Schubert’s opera Alfonso und Estrella in 2005, also conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

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