One of the virtues of a concert performance of a Handel opera – as opposed to a staged one – is that the framework in which the voices are set can be displayed like a geometrical structure, and this is particularly true of The English Concert’s performance of Orlando now on tour. Kyle Ketelsen’s Zoroastro, as the rolling-bass voice of reason, confronts countertenor Iestyn Davies’ Orlando who glowers mutinously back at him, obsessed with love and incapable of the martial heroism which is his destiny. Soprano Erin Morley’s Angelica and mezzo Sasha Cooke’s Medora are in love, but in telling vocal contrast; soprano Carolyn Sampson’s Dorinda also loves Medora, but her naïve acceptance of disappointment becomes the story’s moral anchor.
Under Harry Bicket’s direction the variegated beauty of the score is brilliantly brought out: with its outstanding home-grown soloists, this period band is at the top of its form, while the procession of arias, duets, and trios yields one delight after another. In contrast to Morley’s delicately nuanced singing, Sampson produces moments of sly comedy, as well as vocal beauty to make time stand still; Cooke’s even sound has a thrillingly masculine edge. Davies’ hallucinating hero traverses a kaleidoscopic series of derangements, each with its own vividly-characterised musical colouring.