Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Melania Bucciarelli (Oxford Brookes University, UK)

From Rinaldo to Orlando, or Senesino's path to madness

With Orlando, Senesino concludes his association with Handel. His interpretation of Ariosto's deranged hero could have easily marked the climax of a long and successful career. On the eve of Senesino's return to Italy, however, Orlando turned out to be a real anti-climax and resulted in the definitive rupture with Handel.

This paper takes Senesino's interpretation of the role of Orlando as a starting point for a discussion of his career in Italy, Dresden and London within the context of the contemporary Italian acting tradition, as it emerges through the operas themselves and the writings of Andrea Perrucci, Pier Jacopo Martello and Luigi Riccoboni. While attempting to contextualise a series of comments that defined Senesino as a 'good' or a 'bad' actor, this paper highlights the character of the musical and dramatic challenges posed to the singer by Italian dramatists and composers on the continent, as well as by Handel and Bononcini in London, in order to create a context for appreciating the disappointment of the 1733 Orlando.

Last updated on 11 May 2004