Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, August 16, 2007

L'Orfeo - Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 14 August 2007

There are occasions when the most accurate review of something would just consist of WOW and onomatopeic slobbery noises. This might be one of those times. Certianly the best festival event I've seen so far, and one of my top five all-time festival gigs, I would say. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2007 festival highlight has just left the building.

To begin at the beginning, the set by William Orlandi was magnificent. Not gimmicky of complicated, just very well-imagined. The best thing was the curtain which was covered in large sheets of mirror, so that from the balcony we could see anything going on in the stalls. The first such going-on was actually the coming-on of Jordi Savall who was conducting. He came on during the first of the three opening fanfares. Both he and the orchestra (Le Concert des Nations) were dressed in 17th century costumes, black with white trim. (Savall had a little tassled neck ornament which Hilary reckoned made him look as though he was wearing an iPod.) Sylvia made her entrance and exit through the auditorium as well. Gilbert Deflo's direction was extremely assured. L'Orfeo can be a very static opera by modern standards; in such cases directors are sometimes tempted to get gimmicky. But this one was played dead straight, in classical costume and with no histrionics added. It is a measure of Deflo's achievement that at no time did the opera become boring. It isn't long (about 140 minutes) but it fairly flew. The characters engaged our sympathy and came to life, and if you can make that happen you don't need gimmicks. Special mention also for the dancers, who were not only rhythmic and flexible but dramatically convincing. Again, the choreography by Veronica Endo was imaginative but simple.

Musically it really could not have been better. I knew Jordi Savall mainly from the soundrtack for Tous les Matins du Monde, and otherwise just by reputation. Clearly a well-deserved one. Since our recording (Harnoncourt) was made, the fashion in Monteverdi tempi has become quicker. The advantage of this for something like L'Orfeo is that the slow pieces can avoid becoming draggy but the contrast between slow and fast tempi can be preserved. The chorus work by La Capella Reial de Catalunya was first-class, and there wasn't a single weak link in the cast. It was rather a family show, with Montserrat Figueras (Mrs Savall) as La Musica, and their daughter Arianna Savall as Euridice. Both were particularly good, but the palm must go to Orfeo himself (Furio Zanasi) for singing as good as any I've heard on a stage. I was just looking at the cast list: the shepherds and spirits were good, but every single named character was simply flawless. I was, and remain, gobsmacked.

This year is the 400th anniversary of the first performance, and as a result there are a number of Orfeos being mounted around the world. I feel safe in asserting that none of them will come anywhere near the standard of Tuesday's performance (which was the third and last, though I gather they were all magnificent).


At 16 August, 2007 22:05, Blogger Udge said...

it's long, about 140 minutes

hah. amateurs.

(Just sat through all sixteen hours of the Ring for the seventh time)

At 17 August, 2007 04:16, Blogger Rob said...

Um, I said it isn't. long, abut 140 minutes. Which reminds me of the split-screen gag in Annie Hall:

Psychiatrist: how often do you have sex?

Annie Hall: oh, all the time...about once a week.

Alvy Singer: hardly ever...about once a week.

You just wanted to crow about seeing another Ring,didn't you? I'm (a bit) jealous. I've only seen two as full cycles over a week or two (Scottish Opera and ENO), but can count another couple of cycles rolled out at a rate of one per year (Scottish Opera and Edinburgh Players Opera Group, which I play for. (Oh, and Ring Around the Ring which edits it down into a single evening of about six hours for ballet purposes.) If anyone thinks listening to sixteen hours of Wagner is a test of stamina, trying playing it. If my shoulder is back to full fitness I'm due to do Meisteringer at the end of September. No easier. (Oddly it's Rheingold in many ways that's the killer because of the lack of interval. Plus right at the end you have to play the entry Of the Gods into Valhalla, so you need something in reserve.)


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