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Erismena review at Hackney Empire London

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English Touring Opera here rescues a worthwhile rarity. Written in 1655, this example of Venetian opera in the post-Monteverdi era was one of the best known of the 17th-century and even acquired an English translation in the 1670s, though no definite UK staging at that time has been established. It is an adaptation of this ancient translation that ETO uses and it still works well.

Though the plot is ultra-complex, Cavalli’s score is rich in melody. Rodney Grant’s designs conjure a simple but attractive vision of a Middle Eastern palace, in which the production – here staged by Joseph Alford, but originally the work of James Conway, for Ireland’s Opera Theatre Company – make some sense of the narrative, aided by some dramatically effective and vocally adept performances.

The title role is that of the long lost daughter of the tyrannical king of ancient Media, Erimante (Andrew Slater, on authoritative form). Rachel Nicholls achieves a well-rounded portrayal of Erismena, disguised for the purposes of the plot as a warrior, while Jonathan Peter Kenney is nicely ambiguous as Erimante’s cup-bearer, Idraspe. Laura Mitchell excels as the slave Aldimira, with Patricia Orr firmly in the picture as Prince Orimeno and there are a couple of strong comic servants from David Stout and Huw Rhys-Evans (the latter in drag).

Leading the musical performance is conductor Brian Gordon, who draws convincing sounds from the aptly scaled period-instrument orchestra.

Production Information

Hackney Empire, London, October 7, then touring to November 28

Composer
Cavalli
Director
James Conway/Joseph Alford
Producer
English Touring Opera
Cast includes
Rachel Nicholls, Andrew Slater, Jonathan Peter Kenny, Laura Mitchell, Patricia Orr
Running time
2hrs 30mins

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