Monteverdi – L’Orfeo

Monteverdi
L’Orfeo

Orfeo – Mark Tucker
La Musica / Proserpina – Joanne Lunn
La Messaggiera – Julia Gooding
Euridice – Revital Raviv
Ninfa – Faye Newton
Speranza / Pastore / Spirito – Mark Chambers
Apollo / Pastore / Spirito – Andrew King
Pastore / Spirito – Joseph Cornwell
Plutone / Pastore – Michael George
Caronte / Spirito – Simon Grant
Pastore / Spirito – Mark Rowlinson
Pastore / Spirito – Martin Robson

New London Concert
Philip Pickett

Jonathan Miller – director
Sue Lefton – choreography
Shirin Guild – costumes


Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 14 March, 2007
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

This was a staged version. Engagingly, Philip Pickett introduced it. He pointed to the musicians on either side of the platform. “Those are the baddies over there – on the dark side, the side of hell and Pluto”, he said, “and over here, on the bright side, are the goodies, in Thrace, the pastoral above-ground of Proserpina. In the middle, the brass group playing the fanfare represent the Invaghiti, who commissioned the opera in the first place.”

Thereafter, as we could see for ourselves, major figures in the cast came and went, as did shepherds and spirits of the underworld. When onstage, the chief characters adopted an appropriate stance, with minimal gesture – though broad and expansive. All were dressed in trousers and a loose-buttoned top, slate grey – except for Orfeo (white trousers and embroidery) and La Musica / Prosperpina and La Messagiera (washed burgundy). Male characters might come on or leave the platform via the audience gangways. Particularly effective in Act Three was Charon wielding a long oar that swayed majestically and ceaselessly, indicating the River Styx.

This welcome movement broke up the static-sounding writing and clarified the narrative. High up, a long, narrow screen gave us words in red letters that I found virtually unreadable.

The instruments were gloriously varied – to hear and to look at. We had trumpets, cornets and sackbuts galore, recorders, two magnificent theorbos, a harp, an organ, a harpsichord and a regal, together with stringed instruments of various kinds ranging from violin to bass viol and contrabass violin. The sound was effective, but rather remote, although I could still appreciate the changes in tone and texture as we switched from the underworld to the countryside, from the sombre to the light-hearted, from the doleful to the gay.

The singing was exemplary in its projection, at ease with itself, and seemed as if coming from a single voice of diverse tones. Mark Tucker must have pride of place – his part is so long yet his delivery was so assured and accomplished. I must say, too, that I found the relative depth of his voice most welcome, especially through being effectively varied. Joanne Lunn, Julia Gooding, Revital Raviv and Faye Newton all sang steadily and effectively, at ease in ornamentation that contributed an admirable, articulated gravitas to proceedings. The deeper-voiced Michael George and Simon Grant were solemn and stern rather than lugubrious.

This was an admirable event, then. It achieved its aim of presenting a great work of art with lucidity, professionalism and an impressive, sustained, solemn restraint. Rather churlishly then, I conclude by saying that I found the performance somewhat anaemic. I longed to hear full-blooded cries of anguish, such as might have issued from an ensemble like Rinaldo Alessandrini’s Concerto Italiano.

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