Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Oreste review at Wilton’s Music Hall – ‘talented young cast’

Gyula Nagy, Vlada Borovko, Simon Shibambu, Angela Simkin, and Thomas Atkins in Oreste at Wilton's Music Hall. Photo: Clive Barda Gyula Nagy, Vlada Borovko, Simon Shibambu, Angela Simkin, and Thomas Atkins in Oreste at Wilton's Music Hall. Photo: Clive Barda
by -

For the first time, the Royal Opera takes up residence at Wilton’s for this show by young professionals from the Jette Parker Young Artists programme. A rarely performed piece, Handel’s 1734 Oreste consists of arias from other works assembled in a new dramatic context: Handel’s contemporaries would have called the result a ‘pasticcio’ – Italian for a pie or a mess.

The ultimate source is Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris, and given the nature of the original myth, with its ongoing acts of slaughter, blood sacrifice and revenge, one can hardly fault Gerard Jones’ staging for representing the violence inherent in the plot and its background.

Jones co-designs the show with artist Matt Carter. Their straightforward set is covered with urban art, including a portrait of local king Toante, a genial psychopath dressed in idiosyncratic uniform, who has all foreign visitors to his kingdom sacrificed. Through a window in the back of the set, we see Diana’s priestess – an unwilling Ifigenia – bludgeon an unknown victim to death during the overture. Throughout there’s an emphasis on mistreatment, torture and violence.

Where Jones goes too far is in the constant tics and twitches with which his often crazed characters are over-liberally endowed: in this instance, the result demonstrates the law of diminishing returns, but there’s no denying the effort put in by the cast to realise the director’s intentions.

High vocal standards, from Angela Simkin’s psychologically damaged Oreste, Jennifer Davis’s reluctant executioner Ifigenia, Thomas Atkin’s vividly sung Pilade, Vlada Borovko’s spirited Ermione, Simon Shibambu’s grand-scale Toante and with Gyula Nagy an increasingly lairy Filotete – a contralto role transposed for baritone. James Hendry is the expert conductor of 10 alert members of the Southbank Sinfonia.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
A talented young cast commits to Gerard Jones’ violent production