Euridice (Peri/Oliver) BYO Peacock Theatre 08 September

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Not only bleached but also pushed to the side of her own picture: Ellie Laugharne as Euridice

At the beginning of this performance I remarked to my companion that it was not only semi-staged but also semi-audienced.  That was quite a pity, since we ended up by rather enjoying it.

This opera was an arrangement by Stephen Oliver of Euridice (music by Jacopo Peri, words by Ottavio Rinuccini) given on 6th October 1600 as part of the wedding celebrations of Henri IV and Maria de’ Medici.  It sounded to me as though the vocal lines were retained from the original, while the accompaniment had been thoroughly recomposed (and that’s what the programme says too).

As a gentleman sitting behind me astutely observed, the playing here (by seven members of the Southbank Sinfonia, most of them playing several instruments, and under the direction of Christopher Moulds) was very good.  The story was your Euridice-with-a-happy-ending, and the semi-staging (differently lighted backdrop,  largely modern costumes) promoted it from something I would have switched off on the radio to something rather enjoyable.  A lot of the action, even where it involved Orpheus who wasn’t at all dead, was narrated in messenger-speech style.  Given the largely static nature of the thing and the large number of character who it was difficult to tell apart, I think an application of costumy costumes and glamorous objects (lyre, crown, whatever) would have made the production more effective–money could have been saved by doing away with Mimi’s flying bedstead in La Boheme.

I thought the most effective scenes were those in the underworld, where Proserpina (Catia Moreso) had a very nice number imploring Pluto (Matthew Wright) to show mercy, and the chorus got to surround and touch him as well.  And he got some music to change his mind to as well, unlike in Enfuhrung.  Apart from these two singers, I especially enjoyed the contributions of Paul Curievici as a strongly-sung Orpheus and Ben Williamson as Tragedy.

And once you had got used to the scale of the thing and what it was you had a rewarding evening.

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