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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Hugill    VIVIDLY DRAMATIC

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These relationships acted as a counterpoint to Monteverdi's opera, rather than a dramatisation of it. Perhaps some people might find this stimulating, but I found it merely confusing. But once the dramatic narrative starts, with the eruption of La Messagiera into the celebrations, then Conway's production was more closely aligned to Monteverdi's opera, and I began to appreciate the performance he extracted from his cast. I found their extra-narrative relationships faded more into the background.

That said, the programme book gave Conway's version of the synopsis rather than Monteverdi's and Striggio's. And the cast list included Conway's version of the roles that the singers were playing (Huw Rhys-Evans was listed as playing Apollo and Leader, Hal Cazalet as Orfeo and Outsider).

The hard-working cast was the great strength of this production. Hal Cazalet sang Orfeo and the remaining eight singers doubled (and trebled) as members of the ensemble and solos. Katherine Manley was a pure voiced La Musica and a touching Euridice. Joana Thome was a dramatically moving La Messagiera and a noble Proserpina, though Thome's rich voice is not ideal in this music. David Stout was a strong Pluto and Martin Robson a responsive Charon.

Joana Thome (Messenger) and Katherine Manley (Euridice) in English Touring Opera's production of Monteverdi's 'Orfeo'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison
Joana Thome (Messenger) and Katherine Manley (Euridice) in English Touring Opera's production of Monteverdi's 'Orfeo'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison

Huw Rhys-Evans as Apollo highlighted one problem with the musical element of this production. Monteverdi's vocal lines can be a lot trickier than Carissimi's or Purcell's, and not everyone was ideally clean in their delivery. But keeping the numbers down to just nine kept things dramatically vivid and vibrant, whatever the musical losses. It helped that the singers' diction was superb. The opera was sung in Ann Ridler's accessible and poetic translation, so the audience had a secure grip on the drama.

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Copyright © 26 October 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK

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