Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Timeless story told with elegance and economy: Monteverdi's Ulysses from English Touring Opera

Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Caroline Dobbin, Andrew Slater, Clint van der Linde, Robert Anthon Gardiner - Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Caroline Dobbin, Andrew Slater, Clint van der Linde,
Robert Anthony Gardiner - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Monteverdi Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria; Benedict Nelson, Caroline Dobbin, Andrew Slater, Robert Anthony Gardiner, Clint van der Linde, Nick Pritchard, Old Street Band, dir: James Conway, cond: Jonathan Peter Kenny; English Touring Opera at the Hackney Empire
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Oct 15 2016
Star rating: 4.0

There is a consistency that comes from the cast, band and creative team working together intensively on a number of shows – a rare thing these days

Monteverdi wrote Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria when he was 73 years old – it was premièred in Venice in 1640, 33 years after Orfeo, so by now we can safely say he had honed his craft. This opera doesn’t need championing or explaining, as it tells a timeless story about love and the passage of time.

Caroline Dobbin, Benedict Nelson - Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Caroline Dobbin, Benedict Nelson
photo Richard Hubert Smith
Here (Hackney Empire, 15 October 2016) it was simply and beautifully told by English Touring Opera's well-matched cast (Caroline Dobbin, Benedict Nelson, Andrew Slater, Robert Anthony Gardiner, Clint van der Linde, Nick Pritchard) directed by James Conway, and the ETO’s period-instrument band, the Old Street Band under Jonathan Peter Kenny. There is a consistency that comes from the cast, band and creative team working together intensively on a number of shows – a rare thing these days.

Voices were full and more dramatic than one often hears in the repertoire. Carolyn Dobbin, still and poised throughout, seems ideal for the role of Penelope and her three suitors Antinous (Andrew Slater), Eurymachus (Robert Anthony Gardiner) and Pisander (Clint van der Linde) doing some great slapstick, especially when failing to make a bow for Ulysses, after creepily pawing at her earlier on. This trio had already sung the allegorical figures of Time, Fortune and Human Frailty in the Prologue – and van der Linde also camped it up marvellously as the Nurse Ericlea. Martha Jones doubled as Melanta and Love. This was a very economical use of singers. The final duet with Penelope and Benedict Nelson’s Ulysses was touching but also one could not help wondering (with echoes of the reconciliation of the Count and Countess at the end of Figaro) he has already abandoned her because of Helen of Troy…

Nick Pritchard, John-Colyn Gyeantey- Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Nick Pritchard, John-Colyn Gyeantey-
photo Richard Hubert Smith
The set, designed by takis, was minimal and multi-purpose: red cords used for Penelope’s tapestry, the strings of bows, fishing nets and more besides, and Mark Howland’s lighting provided a watery feel.

The translation, by Anne Ridler, didn’t seem to be as singable as we might like (some strange, rocky word underlay). I really shouldn’t moan about the surtitles after complaining about their absence last week (Xerxes), but this time they were in italics throughout and placed right next to where the waves were projected on to the set. Perhaps it was to give a visceral feeling of being at sea, but I did feel a little queasy and distracted in the Prologue because of it.

This was a great evening out and it all seemed to fit together perfectly. It is also worth mentioning that the programme booklet (one for the whole season) was packed with really interesting essays and provided lots to read on the journey home.

Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith
Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria - English Touring Opera - photo Richard Hubert Smith

Benedict Nelson – Ulisse
Carolyn Dobbin – Penelope
Nick Pritchard – Telemachus
John-Colyn Gyeantey – Eumaeus
Andrew Slater – Antinous / Time / Neptune / Phaecian
Robert Anthony Gardiner – Eurymachus / Amphinomous / Fortune / Phaecian
Clint van der Linde – Pisander / Human Frailty / Ericlea / Phaecian
Adam Player – Irus
Martha Jones – Melanto / Amore
Katie Bray – Minerva

Conductor – Jonathan Peter Kenny
Old Street Band
Director – James Conway
Designer – takis
Lighting Designer – Mark Howland

Elsewhere on this blog:
`

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts