Teresa Iervolino, Paola Valentina Molinari, Ekaterina Bakanova, Gaia Petrone, Sergio Foresti, Barbara Massaro; La Lira di Orfeo/Federico Maria Sardelli; dir. Gianluca Falaschi (Martina Franca, 2021)
Dynamic DVD: 37936; Blu-ray: 57936 147 mins
In his day the Neapolitan Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) was an important figure, pursuing an international career with periods in Venice, London (as a rival to Handel in 1733-36), Dresden and Vienna. This lightweight serenata filmed at Martina Franca over performances in August 2021 was a success at a private palace in Naples in 1720 and repeated both there and in Vienna over the next couple of years. The text – derived like many others from Ariosto’s poetic epic Orlando furioso – is one of the first written by the leading librettist Metastasio, while the subsequent star castrato Farinelli (Porpora’s pupil) made his debut in the premiere as the shepherd Tirsi.
Graced by the participation of dancers, director/designer Gianluca Falaschi’s attractive staging mixes ancient and modern with wit; intelligently acted, it is also very capably sung. Teresa Iervolino’s mellow mezzo proves ideal for the larger than life, latterly deranged hero Orlando, who on this occasion ends the piece still deranged: a final section paying compliments to the Holy Roman Empress on her birthday is omitted despite being mentioned in the synopsis.
Russian soprano Ekaterina Bakanova brings lyrical charm and impressive technical skills to Orlando’s errant beloved, Angelica. She is more interested in the Medoro of Paolo Valentina Molinari, who delivers Orlando’s rival with virtuoso command. The secondary roles are all well done, especially Sergio Foresti as Medoro’s servant, Titiro, and the period-orchestra La Lira di Orfeo reaches an admirable standard under conductor Federico Maria Sardelli, who articulates with care and attention a score packed with good things.