'L'Ormindo' returns to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as part of its second season in February 2015.
In this exciting new collaboration between the Royal Opera and Shakespeare’s Globe, an English version of Francesco Cavalli’s 1644 comedy is lovingly staged by director Kaspar Holten and designer Anja Vang Kragh in the intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Like its big brother the Globe Theatre, the Wanamaker may not be particularly comfortable, but its Jacobean design and candlit interior perfectly sets the scene for this early Baroque romantic comedy – an opera as much about theatre as music, with much physical fun involving characters climbing in and out of the audience to flirt with them or simply lean on them.
The magic begins as conductor Christian Curnyn – in ruff and floppy cap, playing harpsichord continuo – leads seven colleagues from the Early Music Group through the exquisite score, which groans into life like some giant squeezebox. Then, in kitsch and wondrous Baroque style, the muse of music descends from a skylight to deliver a prologue full of knowing contemporary references.
The bawdy humour ensues as a pair of princes, Ormindo and Amidas, discover that they are both wooing the same woman, Queen Erisme. A competition begins in earnest, the young queen confiding in her companion Miranda (the thrilling mezzo Rachel Kelly) that she cannot decide between them, despite being married to the aged king. Cue the arrival of Amidas’s fiancée Sicle (enchanting soprano Joelle Harvey) in disguise, with her gypsy companion Eryka in tow (a hilarious buffa turn from Harry Nicoll).
Clearly the cast has been carefully chosen for both their authentic period voices and acting ability. In a strong field, the most notable is Samuel Boden in the title role. His pure, natural high tenor copes comfortably with the compass usually reserved for countertenor. His rival, employing equally beautiful legato phrasing and intonation is tenor Ed Lyon; while bass Graeme Broadbent, as the king, brings a playful depth to proceedings.
The opera itself isn’t perfect – a chorus would have been nice – but this production pretty much is. More of this, please. Jonathan Lennie