Libretto by Alessando Striggio the Younger
English translation by Anne Ridler
Music by Claudio Monteverdi
Musical Director: Peter Tregear
Stage Director: Cate Clelland
ANU School of Music August 21, 22 August 2014
Review by Len Power 21 August 2014
The earliest surviving opera still in the standard repertoire, ‘L'Orfeo’, first performed in Mantua in 1607, is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, and depicts his extraordinary love for Eurydice and the story of his descent into Hades in a vain attempt to bring his dead bride back to the living world.
Presented by the ANU School of Music, in collaboration with the School of Art and the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, ‘L’Orfeo’ was presented at Llewellyn Hall with stage direction by Cate Clelland and musical direction by Peter Tregear. The production utilises a specially-commissioned digital set, designed by Milan-based award-winning Australian digital artist, Andrew Quinn.
There was fine singing by Nicholas Mulroy as Orfeo, especially in his Act 5 soliloquy. Paul McMahon as Apollo, displayed a fine dramatic presence as well as singing his role very well. Krystle Inness was in good voice as the Messenger, as were Rachael Thoms and Veronica Thwaites-Brown as the allegorical figures, Music and Hope, respectively. Some of the less experienced soloists sang well but needed to project more. The large chorus sang the complex music with great assurance. However, it was hard to understand the words throughout the performance even though it was sung in English.
The orchestra, conducted by musical director, Peter Tregear, gave a fine performance of the score. Lighting by Alessandro Chiodo added greatly to the atmosphere. The digital projections by Andrew Quinn were fascinating and used with restraint. They didn’t always seem to complement the action but they were especially striking in the heavenly finale. Choreography by Liz Lea was effective and nicely performed by her small group of dancers. The staging by Cate Clelland mostly worked well but the deliberately slow entrances and exits by the chorus were a bit dull and dreary.
There have been so many different musical and non-musical versions of the Orpheus legend over the years and the story continues to fascinate audiences. This production was a great opportunity to see the earliest surviving musical version. Peter Tregear and everyone involved in it have done a fine job with this production.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 24 August 2014 from 5pm.