Cracked Orlando: drama per musica e fractals (2010)

Recasting energies and sounds of the Italian Baroque, CRACKED ORLANDO Drama per Musica e Fractals (2010) is a delicate opera/ballet that re-forges early eighteenth century music through compositional workings based upon fractal geometry. The affects and emotions of Love, Betrayal, and Forgiveness are augmented and intensified in this overly-mannered miniature work, running just over and hour.  In keeping with these ideas, the text has been extracted from the libretto originally used by Vivaldi, and rebuilt using Fibonacci growth patterns. 

Cracked Orlando premiered in 2010 at the Italian Academy of Columbia University.  In 2016 a new production was presented at The Juilliard School, Beyond The Machine series, Center for Innovation in the Arts.



  • Orlando ~countertenor
  • Angelica  ~Soprano
  • Alciina  ~Mezzo-soprano
  • Medoro  ~Tenor


  • Recorder (descant/alto/tenor)
  • Soprano Saxaphone
  • Piccolo Trumpet
  • 2 Violins
  • Violoncello
  • Double Bass
  • Mandelin/Guitar/Therobo (1 player)
  • Percussion (Timp. glock)


  • “CRACKED TO PIECES, where is Orlando?” sings the title character in Jonathan Dawe’s Cracked Orlando, presented by Juilliard’s Center for Innovation in the Arts at the Rosemary and Meredith Willson … Read More...

    Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News - 3/4/17

    Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News - 3/4/17

    “CRACKED TO PIECES, where is Orlando?” sings the title character in Jonathan Dawe’s Cracked Orlando, presented by Juilliard’s Center for Innovation in the Arts at the Rosemary and Meredith Willson Theater (seen March 24). The answer was everywhere, both visually and aurally. John Erickson’s projections played across jagged screens that suggested Orlando’s altered state (the result of enchantment by the sorceress Alcina) and offered hope of his restoration via Pangaea-like fusion were they to connect. The screens also played home to the rocky coastal landscape of Alcina’s island, as well as to a corps of dancers, filmed months earlier, who impersonated shipwreck victims swimming to freedom as well as cavorting statuary at Angelica and Medoro’s wedding. At one point, they stood in for Orlando himself, rushing from one screen to the next as he tried to escape Angelica’s cave. In a show of true theatrical sorcery, Alcina was an avatar vanishing and reappearing on the screens, animated by mezzo Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek’s physical movements, which were picked up by motion sensors as she sang in a room across the hall. In addition to controlling the projections, video artist Phoebe Dunn manipulated a hologram representing the torch Alcina used to bewitch Orlando, making it wax, wane and change colors with graceful hand movements. 

    Dawe’s score is like Handel in a blender, framing melismatic vocal lines against a dissonant, fragmented instrumental soundscape. Singing in both Italian and English, the fearless singers managed to make Dawe’s thorny score sound like their natural mode of expression, despite the paucity of pitch reference. The singers were miked in order to create echo effects and to match Kwiatek’s piped in vocal presence. This made all their voices sound edgy in the small space, but countertenor Brennan Hall, an alternately sorrowful and unhinged Orlando, found moments of sweetness, especially in his affecting final aria. (Hall is a veteran of another adventurous Orlando: R.B. Schlather’s WhiteBox Art Center exhibition of the Handel opera, in which he played Medoro as a strutting pimp.) Soprano Sharon Harms made a regal Angelica, and it was her facial expressions that set the emotional stakes. She executed the score’s most florid passages with shiny confidence and empowering chest tones. Brian Jeffers offered a heroic, flexible tenor as Medoro. With so much musical and visual cacophony, director Kerry Warren wisely kept the staging simple. Conductor Ryan McAdams brought out the lyrical moments in Dawe’s fractal score while maintaining a precise rhythmic engine.

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