L'Ormindo Sparkles At The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
Just as the Roundhouse’s production of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1607), considered to be the first ever opera, closes, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the recent Jacobean addition to Shakespeare’s Globe, offers a revival of its very successful L’Ormindo (1644) by Francesco Cavalli. Both productions are collaborations with the Royal Opera but the scale and tone of each could hardly be more different.
Cavalli, Monteverdi’s disciple and successor as the leading opera composer of his time, worked within the Venetian tradition, which turned opera into a less-elitist commercial entertainment. Far from the tragedies of better known Italian operas, Cavalli’s high-enjoyable piece is akin to a farce; a fast-moving, improbable story of love rivalry between two friends.
Amida (Ed Lyon) and Ormindo (Samuel Boden) discover that they are in love with the same woman: Erisbe (Susanna Hurrell), herself unhappily married to the old and grey King Ariadenus. Amida’s abandoned lover soon gets involved, disguised as a fortune-telling gypsy. With the help of her faithful servant, she plots and deceives to regain her man. As we learn that Ormindo is in fact the King’s son and as he inherits both the throne and the queen, everything ends in songs and dance as everybody gets married to the person they love.
Although there are some poignant moments, most particularly perhaps the beautifully-staged “death scene” which uses the candle-lighting to great effect, the general tone is fun and light-hearted with many witty comedic instants, sometimes bordering on the bawdy. As an added pleasure, the conjunction of Giovanni Faustini’s playful libretto and Kasper Holten’s knowing direction work for the modern audience as a send up of opera’s more conventional plot devises.
Holten’s effective use of this lovely, intimate venue cleverly places the audience into the action, while the performers’ proximity is likely to make attending performances in larger venues much less appealing. The performances, by a great ensemble, are perfectly pitched in their irreverence, with some truly beautiful moments of singing. Special mention must be made of Anja Vang Krag’s outrageous costume for Love/Cupid, or lack thereof…
Unfortunately, this run is sold out but return tickets may be available from the box office on 0207 401 9919. L’Ormindo is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT until 5 March. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 04 February 2015