<<< << -- 4 -- Robert Hugill IMPRESSIVELY BALANCED
The ending of the opera is remarkable. The two pairs of lovers plus Egeo are just working themselves up for the final happy choro, when a vengeful Medea appears, breathing fire. Again we missed the spectacular transformations of the original staging, and also Tom Hawkes' imaginative effects when Sarah Walker sang the role for the English Bach Festival. But Wiltshire and Conway were resourceful and Bern's musical performance carried the day. A final dramatic intervention by the priestess of Minerva (here recast as the ghosts of Medea's children, played very capably by two local children) leads to a satisfactorily happy ending.
ETO has put together a fine balanced cast which enables Bern to give a strong dramatic performance without overbalancing the ensemble. The opera was sung in Italian with extracts from the original English translation projected above the stage. A neat idea which did not quite work given the slightly arcane eighteenth century English.
The orchestra played on period instruments at baroque pitch and gave a good account of Handel's rich score. The oboes sounded a little congested at the start of the overture but warmed up and sounded lovely in some of their elaborate flights, especially in the aria where the oboe duets with Agilea.
There is one chorus in the opera, here taken admirably by a group of young locals. ETO has a strong community involvement and local choirs are performing in Teseo and in Julian Joseph's jazz opera Bridgetower, which is also being given on this tour.
Not everything was perfect. Some of the singers' runs tended to be smudged and the orchestra's crispness could verge on the over incisive. But all in all this was an impressively balanced performance, with some fine musical dramatic accounts of some of Handel's loveliest but difficult music. In a theatre the size of the Cambridge Arts Theatre, we were able to hear the opera in a venue of the size Handel would have been used to. The capacity audeince was rightly highly appreciative.
Copyright © 1 November 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK
ENGLISH TOURING OPERA