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<<  -- 4 --  Robert Hugill    CONSUMMATE STYLE

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All the singers produced consummate Monteverdian ornamentation and style. This integrating of modern opera singers with early practice was taken even further in the orchestra. Directed by Lawrence Cummings, members of the ENO orchestra were joined by a dozen or so players from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The string players from the ENO orchestra abandoned their metal strings and modern bows for gut strings and baroque bows. To cope with the changes in pitch, the work was played at modern pitch but transposed up a tone so that the tessitura was very much that of Monteverdi's time. The result was a masterclass in how to integrate performance practice into a modern opera house. It sounded stunning, a wonderfully rich sound being achieved by using rather more instruments than Monteverdi would have, but this was achieved without sacrificing the austerity and clarity of Monteverdi's score.

Ruby Philogene as Eurydice and John Mark Ainsley as Orfeo. Photo © 2006 Catherine Ashmore
Ruby Philogene as Eurydice and John Mark Ainsley as Orfeo. Photo © 2006 Catherine Ashmore

Whatever my reservations about occasional details, Chen Shi-Zheng's visual imagination has produced such wonderfully apposite images that I was won over. This combined with a stunning musical performance made for a memorable evening. Alas there are only six performances; the use of Chen Shi-Zheng's own dance troupe means that the production is unlikely to be revived regularly, which is our loss.

Copyright © 24 April 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK

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ROBERT ANDERSON ON ANOTHER JOHN MARK AINSLEY 'ORFEO'

WILFRID MELLERS WRITES ABOUT 'ORFEO'

ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA

CHEN SHI-ZHENG

ORCHESTRA OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

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