Monday, 7 December 2009
High praise again to Pinchgut Opera
About a year ago I wrote about Pinchgut Opera's production of Charpentier's David et Jonathas (Oh Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay! -Wonderful Pinchgut Opera). I have attended every one of Pinchgut's productions since they started in 2002, and wouldn't ever miss them. The operas, by Purcell, Handel, Charpentier, Rameau, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, and Mozart, are seldom or never performed here.
Pinchgut uses the Sydney's Angel Place Recital Hall. This is a lovely venue, with a good acoustic, but it was not designed for stage productions, so Pinchgut and their designers have had to be very clever and creative in the staging.
I have just seen this year's production, L'Ormindo, by Francesco Cavalli (1602-76). The libretto is by Giovanni Faustini. I'd never heard of the opera, and Cavalli was only a vague name to me, despite my passion for early music. However, Grove regards him as the most important opera composer in the quarter-century following Monteverdi.
L'Ormindo is a total contrast to last year's opera. First produced in Venice in 1644, it romps through desire, sexuality, frustration, the plight of being married to an old and impotent king, the determination to take pleasure and not to allow 'love' to interfere with pleasure. It ends with true love triumphant (of course). It is essentially a comedy, and very tongue in cheek, mocking all the platitudes of love, although it has a truly affecting death scene with the most-heart-wrenching high violin music. Of course, they are not really dead: they, and we, only think they are! While the cast is small, each character is well-written, and given a goodly amount of music and acting.
Due to various circumstances, I missed the first half hour of the opera. Fortunately I had earlier downloaded the libretto and read it at home, to get my head around the old-style Italian. Just as well. It is a very sharp, very witty libretto, quite cynical about human behaviour and sexuality.
As ever, it was a most enjoyable performance, with wonderful singing, acting and staging, a great orchestra. Imaginative surprises abounded. Pinchgut reaches an extraordinarily high standard, and long may they continue. My slight reservations are that the opera is not emotionally engaging (apart from, as noted above, the death scene) and the music, while pleasant and enjoyable, cannot compete with the other operas Pinchgut has performed. But all in all it was a great night.