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The basic set was plain, just a neutral backdrop which could be lit in a variety of imaginative ways (lighting design by Ciaran Bagnali). For most of the time a long length of blue fabric hung down onto the stage, representing the Hydaspes river by which most of the action takes place.

Cowell's production was fluent and he took Handel and Metastasio's opera at face value and did not try to make it anything else, always a strong point. By means of some neat bits of side business and supremely committed performances from his cast, Cowell managed to make the action believable and almost credible -- quite a feat.

There were moments when I felt that the production was a little too restless for its own good. But the great strength of this production was in the emotional truth of the central performances. It probably helped that Cowell had young singers playing the roles of fickle young lovers.

As ever Laurence Cummings and the London Handel Orchestra were on form. Cummings kept the music moving, without it ever feeling rushed. Cowell's few real scene changes were covered by the continuo, so that each act flowed like a continuous whole, as it should.

Nathan Vale as Alessandro in Handel's 'Poro'. Photo © 2007 Chris Christodoulou
Nathan Vale as Alessandro in Handel's 'Poro'. Photo © 2007 Chris Christodoulou

I could imagine that, in a less believable, less sympathetic performance, Poro could come over as rather cluncky, unbelievable and artificial. But the quality of the music and the fine central performances meant that it became real drama.

Copyright © 25 March 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK



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