Glyndebourne replaces mezzo with countertenor

The troubled Sussex festival announced this morning that the US mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong has withdrawn from the title role in the new production of Handel’s Rinaldo ‘for personal reasons’.

Ours not to reason why.

What is remarkable is that the festival has replaced her with another member of cast, the Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, who was due to sing Eustazio. (That role will now be taken by the US American countertenor Patrick Terry, a member of ovent Garden’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.

Like for like?

Not really. Handel was not definitive whether this role – like Julius Caesar and others – was gender-specific. His casting was impetuous.

Orlinski is certainly eye-catching and hot news. Makes you wonder all the more about those ‘personal reasons’.

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  • And conducted by Max Emelyantsychev – who has past experience working with Orlinski. Regrettably the production – set in a British private school, on bicycles – is loathsome, but you can’t have everything…

    • Loathsome is a bit strong. By comparison with Christoph Schlingensief’s Parsifal and Katerina’s Meistersinger at Bayreuth, it’s just a bit quirky. Go, there were still seats available when I looked a few days ago, and do as I did at Parsifal; close your eyes and listen to the music.

  • Norman, this is not a new production but a revival Orlinski sang the title role in Frankfurt recently so, presumably was covering it anyway.

    Also, why do you think the Glyndebourne Festival is troubled?

    • I think he’s basing the comment on the lack of stable leadership and frequent changes there. How many technical directors, chorus masters and stage managers have come and gone over the last 5 years? Not to mention the Sebastian Schwartz debacle. They have appointed a new “director” of organisational development now, but that’s a typically corporate role that will not do much good. How is that person going to take Glyndebourne in any sort of strategic direction while Sarah Hopwood is in charge. Everyone knows she calls all the shots.

        • Sure, what I meant was is there any value in hiring someone to work on organisational development if the MD always does things her way anyway? Feels like a waste of money to paper over the cracks.

  • Orliński will have a tremendous success in the title role.

    As I wrote in my review of his Rinaldo in Frankfurt last year:

    “Orliński will sing Eustazio in Glyndebourne this summer with Elizabeth DeShong in the title role. If ever there was a case for urgent re-casting, this is one. With a shrewd eye for star performers, Handel would undoubtedly agree.”

    With Emelyantsychev at the helm, I would venture to say that despite the quirky quasi-Hogwarts production, this will be the hottest ticket of the season.

  • As ever Glyndebourne was anything but troubled when we visited earlier this year. Don’t include such unnecessary comments please.

  • The recent Rusalka I attended was superb – revealing nothing ‘troubled’ about Glyndebourne.
    Orlinski will be a stunning Rinaldo, and has already sung the role in Hamburg. He is one of the most exciting countertenors of today, with impressive technique and beauty of tone. Whatever the reason for the cast change, I welcome it.
    The production is inventive and quirky, and far from the disaster that some make out. As someone else said, just close your eyes and listen to the music!

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