The Organ

WNO Monteverdi: The Return of Ulysses

Royal Albert Hall
17 October, Apollo Theatre, Oxford

The Return of Ulysses is a work of such emotional intensity that it is surprising to find David Alden's production treating much of the story in an uncomfortably superficial vein. Though the central family relationships are given their full weight, the surrounding deities are guyed as if it were impossible to convince an audience of their integrity. The constant flux was disconcerting, not least to the singers themselves and the conductor, whose approach was exemplary throughout.

Sara Fulgoni was heart-rending Penelope matched by the rugged strength of Paul Nilon's Ulysses. Ed Lyon's unusually virile Telemarchus proved an admirable foil for the more effete society within which he is forced to live. Of these Geoffrey Dalton and Elizabeth Vaughan were particularly impressive, but the cast had no weak links, only the production let them down by failing to trust the work itself. Orchestral playing was thrilling throughout and the range of tone and texture constantly exciting, under Rinaldo Alessandrini's subtle shaping of line.