Magazine article The Spectator

Opera: L'Ormindo

Magazine article The Spectator

Opera: L'Ormindo

Article excerpt

Credit: Hugo Shirley


ROH, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe, in rep until 12 April

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ENO, Ambika P3, in rep until 19 April

It's been a spring tradition for several years now for English National Opera to present small-scale productions in various venues around London. But this year the Royal Opera followed suit, heading across the Thames to the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe. Ahead of the announcement of its solid but mainly safe 2014-15 season, we also learned that the ROH will present Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in English at the Roundhouse in Camden next year -- a rather more blatant incursion into ENO territory.

And if the company can take these small shows, which don't even employ its orchestra, to NW1 and SE1, what's to stop it taking them on tour beyond the M25? This would admittedly be trickier with this year's offering, Francesco Cavalli's 1644 L'Ormindo , a co-production with the Globe tailored to the authentic candles, trap doors and trapezes (and uncomfortable, cramped seating) of its new indoor theatre -- a smaller, and distinctly less democratic space than the Globe itself: what few standing places there are are tucked away with restricted view, and had largely been abandoned by the end of the first-night performance.

One of the main things the show itself demonstrated was that the Royal Opera's Kasper Holten is a far more effective director when denied the technical toys and pretentious tricks so indiscriminately applied to his recent Covent Garden Don Giovanni. Here was a stylishly realised production, with Anja Vang Kragh's flamboyant baroque-with-a-twist costumes giving an extra mischievous, modern edge. There was imaginative use of the space, with cast members entering and exiting from all sides and, by and large, allowed to communicate Cavalli's exquisite music (and the words of Christopher Cowell's sensible translation) unhindered.

The poetry of Ormindo and Erisbe's joint 'death' (the old poison switched with sleeping-draught trick), played out as the theatre's candles were extinguished one by one, was properly touching; and the scene was beautifully sung by Samuel Boden and Susanna Hurrell. Throughout, Boden's sweet tenor was well contrasted with the more robust singing of Ed Lyon's preening Amidas. Joélle Harvey was delightful as the resourceful Sicle, and Harry Nicoll delivered a fine comic turn as her nurse Eryka. As Erisbe's elderly husband King Ariadenus -- frequent butt of the piece's bawdier jokes -- Graeme Broadbent hammed it up gamely. Christian Curnyn and the modest forces of his Early Opera Company, also signed up for next season's L'Orfeo , played with impeccable style and taste. …

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