Handel's Orlando

Harry Bicket's triumphant Handel opera series returned in Spring 2016 with Orlando, a torrid tale of entangled love, madness and magic, originally written as a vehicle for the great castrato Senesino at the height of the frantic rivalry between London's competing opera companies.

Orlando is one of Handel's most gorgeous and innovative scores, especially the extraordinary psychological insight in the famous extended scene at the end of Act II which charts Orlando's descent into madness. Redemption eventually comes at the hands of the wizard Zoroastro but the entire opera casts its own extraordinary spell, especially with another fabulous cast led, with Handelian authority, by Harry Bicket.


The English Concert
Harry Bicket director/harpsichord
Iestyn Davies Orlando
Carolyn Sampson Dorinda
Erin Morley Angelica
Sasha Cooke Medoro
Kyle Ketelsen Zoroastro

What the critics had to say:

"Like a globe-travelling relative who returns bearing marvellous gifts, The English Concert continues to appear at Carnegie Hall bearing one gorgeous Handel opera after another. The English Concert will return in April of next year, with [Ariodante]. After Sunday, it seems cruelly unfair to have to wait that long. " - New York Classical Review

"An eager audience packed Carnegie Hall for a concert performance of "Orlando" on Sunday afternoon. The esteemed period orchestra The English Concert, with the conductor Harry Bicket leading from the harpsichord, gave an eloquent and affecting rendition with five impressive singers. Mr. Bicket and his ensemble, who won many admirers two years ago with Handel's "Alcina" at Carnegie, did not disappoint this time. " - The New York Times

"An utterly heavenly Orlando. When these five wonderful voices combined for the final chorus, I thought I had gone to heaven. Here, in any case, was a superb performance tat left the audience glowing with pleasure. Unobtrusively yet firmly overseen by Harry Bicket, leading the spritely English Concert from the harpsichord." - The Telegraph

"Under Harry Bicket's lively direction, each instrumentalist played as though personally responsible for the entire show, wringing out every ounce of drama: at one point during Act II, the cellos unleashed such a torrent of fury that they threatened to upstage the cast." - Financial Times

"It was performed exquisitely by Harry Bicket, The English Concert and a quintet of singers that it would be hard to surpass."- The Times

"The listener could just sit back and bask in the assured precision and shimmering sounds of The English Concert. Consistent with the emotion-driven plot, the musical story-telling was inwardly sensitive rather than ostensive. Dramatic eloquence emerged from the disciplined and meltingly beautiful playing, such as in Dorinda's sad nightingale aria "Quando spieghi I tuoi tormenti", where the laden rest suggested suppressed sobs. Such refined expression is impossible without soloists to match and all five were on a par with the orchestra." - Opera Today

"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." - The Independent

"Passion, enchantment, madness: all the ingredients Handel needed to make Orlando one of his most individual and poignant operas. Both conducting and playing were first-rate throughout." - Evening Standard

"Harry Bicket and The English Concert were joined by a splendid cast of five young singers, including a trio of Americans, for a 'concert' performance which was musically compelling. The players of The English Concert provided a buoyant, vibrant accompaniment. This exceptional performance certainly followed the 'Right Way' and insinuated its impression into this listener's heart." - Opera Today

"Accompanying the magic of the evening, The English Concert demonstrated crisp articulation in the second section of the overture, and were effectively wispy sounding in the fleeting gigue. Throughout, the group lived up to their high standards and never overpowered the voices or attempted brash theatrical effects as increasingly seems the fashion for period orchestras. They played the music sensitively and under conductor Harry Bicket contributed to a highly successful performance." - Opera Britannia

"Throughout Harry Bicket and The English Concert gave us a fine account of the score. Bicket's encouragement of quite a strong bass line in the music worked wonders for the sound, and there were some lovely solo moments from oboes and flutes as well as the two violas. Overall this was a profoundly beautiful performance with some really magical singing from a wonderfully balances cast." - Planet Hugill

"The well balanced cast was accompanied by Harry Bicket and The English Concert, who rounded off this 'British' Handel exegesis excellently. Bicket balanced a finely detailed and energetic emphasis between love poetry and abrupt delusion - the orchestra played with a catchy, slightly arid brushed up sound." - Der Neue Merker