The Organ

Montiverdi's Orfeo

English National Opera
15th April 2006

When the baroque revival began to establish itself Raymond Leppard prepared a number of highly coloured orchestrations for Glyndebourne. The pendulum rapidly swung in the other direction and we have had many years of thinned down accompaniments, often very beautiful, but at odds with the size of venue which is the reality today for most public performance. Laurence Cummings' approach to the new ENO production of Orfeo is a fascinating compromise which brings together soloists from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and ENO's own orchestra to provide a wide range of tone colour and bite, with enough instruments to comfortably fill the house. The result is challenging for the purist but impressively true to the original intentions of the composer. He also has the benefit of a cast who understand the need to convey the text in what is, after all, a very slow moving narrative. John Mark Ainsley is totally at ease in the title role and is strongly supported by Tom Randle and Ruby Philogene.

Chen Shi-Zheng's slow paced production is consistently beautiful in Tom Pye's sets and Scott Zielinski's lighting. The use Indonesian dancers occasionally creates an interesting comment on the action but rarely achieves any depth. Thankfully the performance of the score can over-ride any minor concerns one might have.