L'Ormindo – reviews of Royal Opera's candlelit Baroque gem

Apr 1, 2014

Rare Cavalli opera revival in Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is 'witty', 'inventive' and 'magical', say critics

Stephen Cumminsky

What you need to know A new production of Francesco Cavalli's rarely-performed Baroque opera L'Ormindo has opened at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London. The production, directed by Kasper Holten, is a collaboration between the Royal Opera and Shakespeare's Globe for their new candlelit theatre space.

Comic romance L'Ormindo tells the story of two princes, Ormindo and Amidas, who vie for the love of the unhappily married Erisbe, wife of the old King Ariadenus. Meanwhile, Amidas's abandoned lover Sicle attempts to thwart his quest, with the aid of her nurse and some luck. Runs until 12 April. 

What the critics like This Baroque opera delivers "an evening of high-class, high-camp, high-art pleasure", says Fiona Maddocks in The Observer. The music is lavish and bursting with variety, while the plot proves shameless and saucy.

To see a 17th century Venetian opera in a charming, candlelit replica of a Jacobean theatre is an experience in itself, and "doubly so with a production as inventively witty as this one", says Michael Church in The Independent. The cast sing wonderfully, but what makes the evening magical is the delicate balance between the raunchiness on stage and the exquisite tissue of arias, duets, and intermezzi.

Holten's marvellously inventive production is both "pacey and genuinely amusing", says Barry Millington in the Evening Standard. It's also the start of what promises to be an exciting partnership between the Royal Opera and the Wanamaker Playhouse.

What they don't like Cavalli, who wrote for the world's first commercial opera house in Venice, a larger theatre with room for more orchestral players than the eight here, "would probably be shocked" by the size of this production, says Neil Fisher in The Times. But while this show may be smaller scale, it's hard not to like it.

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