To La Monnaie this evening for a first-rate performance and production of Handel’s Orlando. The plot – blind love leads warrior to destructive madness but all live happily after thanks to the convenient presence of a magician who puts everything back to rights – is nothing to write home about. But not only did the Baroque Orchestra B’rock, under the experienced baton (expressive hands, actually) of René Jacobs, provide the perfect basis for five excellent sung performances from the singers, but Pierre Audi’s clever and sophisticated direction and Christof Hetzer’s sensitive and intelligent stage design provided a nuanced backdrop for five great acting performances. Chief among them was Bejun Mehta’s portrayal of Orlando himself. Mehta is a fascinating double success story. An American born in China to an Indian father, he was a celebrated boy soprano who then went on to be a cellist and a record producer before realising that he was not a baritone, as he had wrongly believed, but a countertenor, leading to a second highly successful career as an opera singer. In this production Audi and Hetzer toy with fire and the images of flames to portray an Orlando sliding into pyromania and Mehta skillfully introduces the gradual changes in Orlando’s behaviour as he becomes increasingly mad, bad and dangerous to know… Three cherubic monsters appear at the beginning and the end to make it plain to the audience that the whole thing was just a fantastic load of old nonsense but, goodness, wasn’t it fun!