CLAUDIO Monteverdi’s 1607 opera, “L’Orfeo”, based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, is the earliest opera still performed today.
School of Music chief, Peter Tregear, assembled considerable forces but with a minimalistic set.
The pièce de résistance was the digital visual display at the back of the stage. Designed by Andrew Quinn, this feature brought light and life to what otherwise would have been a rather dull piece of music.
Choreography underutilised the expansive stage. Lighting was subtle but sometimes out of kilter with actor positions. Costume design fitted the theme of the work beautifully.
Tenor, Nicholas Mulroy, gave a fine performance of Orfeo, a rather wimpish character, procrastinating as he did for a seemingly endless but superbly sung aria at the River Styx and then losing his love in a twinkling because he couldn’t follow simple rules.
The vocal qualities of other soloists varied. Some had good operatic voices, while others just did not have the power to project. The result was an audience at times straining to hear while at others with their ears pinned back.
The orchestra acquitted itself well, featuring some interesting sounds of Monteverdi’s time. But, while taking care not to overshadow the singing, it sounded subdued and lacked sparkle.
The star of the performance was the chorus with some beautifully balanced and controlled singing that lifted the whole performance.
Really a chamber opera, “L’Orfeo” would have enjoyed better success in a more intimate setting.