Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

San Francisco Opera Presents George Frideric Handel's ORLANDO

San Francisco Opera Presents George Frideric Handel's ORLANDO

San Francisco Opera presents George Frideric Handel's Orlando in a bold production by director Harry Fehr that updates the setting to World War II London during the Blitz. English conductor Christopher Moulds makes his Company debut leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and a cast of five leading Handelian artists, each of whom is singing their roles for the first time. Handel's rarely performed work of love and madness will be presented June 9 27 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Fehr's production sets Orlando in a British military hospital during the Second World War where the hero is a Royal Air Force pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As in the source material, the troubled Orlando navigates feelings of jealousy and rage when confronting his former lover, Angelica, who has since become romantically involved with Medoro, who, in turn, is the object of Dorinda's affection. The magician Zoroastro, here a physician in the hospital, helps Orlando overcome his mental anguish and find peace after wartime. Featuring sets and costumes designed by Yannis Thavoris, projections designed by Andrzej Goulding, original lighting design by Anna Watson and revival lighting by Tim van 't Hof, Fehr's staging was first mounted by Scottish Opera and later by the Welsh National Opera.

Orlando requires five virtuosic singers who can portray the drama's richly drawn characters while also singing Handel's thrilling yet demanding vocal music. San Francisco Opera's cast is headed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Orlando. Known for her poise, radiance and elegant directness (Opera News) in a wide repertory, Cooke's recent triumphs include creating the role of Laurene Powell Jobs in Mason Bates and Mark Campbell's The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at Santa Fe Opera in 2017, a portrayal which she will reprise with San Francisco Opera in June 2020, and Goffredo in Handel's Rinaldo at Carnegie Hall with Harry Bicket and The English Concert. She has previously performed Medoro in Orlando at London's Barbican Hall and now takes on the opera's title role with San Francisco Opera.

Following acclaimed performances as Zdenka in Strauss' Arabella earlier this season, soprano Heidi Stober returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage as Angelica. Fast-rising countertenor and second-year Adler Fellow Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, who has scored successes in 2019 with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists and San Francisco Ballet, makes his mainstage debut as Medoro. In her premiere American engagement, Austrian soprano Christina Gansch is Dorinda. Bass-baritone and 2018 Richard Tucker Award-winner Christian Van Horn is the story's deus ex machina, Zoroastro.

Orlando premiered in London in 1733, the first of three operas Handel created using plots drawn from Ludovico Ariosto's Renaissance epic Orlando Furioso. Inspired by the Italian classic's magical events, Handel's trio of works Orlando, Ariodante and Alcina are among the composer's finest for the opera stage. English musicologist and Handel scholar Winton Dean once hailed Orlando as musically perhaps the richest of all Handel's operas. The bravura mad scene in Act II requires the artist in the title role to negotiate multiple metric shifts as the mood and intensity build.

In commemoration of the tercentenary of Handel's birth, San Francisco Opera presented Orlando in 1985 with renowned mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in the title role. The cast also featured Valerie Masterson as Angelica, Ruth Ann Swenson as Dorinda, Jeffrey Gall as Medoro and Kevin Langan as Zoroastro. This San Francisco Opera premiere, one of the earliest stagings of Orlando in the United States, was conducted by the late Sir Charles Mackerras and directed by John Copley.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the five performances of Orlando are scheduled for June 9 (2 p.m.), June 15 (7:30 p.m.), June 18 (7:30 p.m.), June 21 (7:30 p.m.) and June 27 (7:30 p.m.), 2019.


Opera on the Couch: Orlando

Sunday, June 9, 2019, 20 minutes after performance

Books Inc., Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco

Jeanne Harasemovitch and Milton Schaefer of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis lead a lively discussion exploring the themes in Handel's Orlando from a psychological perspective. The discussion begins at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza immediately following the June 9 performance. The discussion is free and open to the public.

Meet Orlando and Medoro, CD Signing

Saturday, June 15, 2019 immediately after the performance

San Francisco Opera Shop in the War Memorial Opera House

Immediately following the June 15 performance of Orlando, Sasha Cooke and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will sign copies of their recent recordings. Cooke's newest releases include a recital disc with Music@Menlo, Berlioz with the San Francisco Symphony and the Grammy Award-winning recording of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Nussbaum Cohen will sign copies of his solo debut recording of arias by Gluck, Handel and Vivaldi with the American Bach Soloists led by Jeffrey Thomas, which is scheduled for release on July 1 but will be available as a pre-release exclusive to San Francisco Opera audiences.

San Francisco Opera Guild Previews: Orlando

June 3 5, 2019

Bruce Lamott, director of the Philharmonia Chorale, the professional chorus of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, will give a series of Opera Preview lectures June 3 5 about Handel's Orlando. Presented by San Francisco Opera Guild Chapters throughout the Bay Area and the San Jose Opera Guild, each 90-minute lecture provides in-depth insight into the opera's history, composer, story and music. For schedule and locations, visit

Tickets for Orlando are priced from $26 to $398. A $2 facility fee is included in all Balcony sections. All other sections include a $3-per-ticket facility fee. For tickets, visit, call (415) 864-3330 or visit the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Box Office hours: Monday 10 a.m. 5 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. 6 p.m. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the morning of each performance. Standing room tickets are $10 each, cash only and limited to two tickets per person. Casting, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change.

Each presentation of Orlando at the War Memorial Opera House features a 25-minute Pre-Opera Talk by scholar and Philharmonia Chorale Director Bruce Lamott. Beginning 55 minutes prior to curtain, Pre-Opera Talks are open to tickets holders for the corresponding performance.

OperaVision screens, suspended from the ceiling of the balcony section at select performances, provide close-up and mid-range ensemble shots in high-definition video; English subtitles appear at the bottom of each screen. OperaVision is made possible by the Koret-Taube Media Suite. Visit for OperaVision dates.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, within walking distance of the Civic Center BART Station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For further information about public transportation and parking, visit

Related Articles View More San Francisco Stories

More Hot Stories For You