Opera + Classical Music Features

Monteverdi’s Orfeo in contrasting productions from Garsington and Opera North


Ed Lyon & Zoe Drummond in Garsington Opera’s Orfeo (Photo: Julian Guidera)

The undisputed hit of the 2022 Summer Opera Festival season was Garsington Opera’s production of Monteverdi’s great work: we were enchanted with it on the first night – and a rare unanimity was obvious from other ecstatic reviews. For those who have not seen it, and indeed those who have and would love to experience it again, a filmed version will be available on Operavision from Friday 21 October at 18.00 BST. The performance will be free to watch worldwide with no registration required, and will remain online until 20 April 2023. For those unfamiliar with the work, there is an excellent introduction and plot summary on the above link.


Nicholas Watts & Ashnaa Sasikaran in Opera North’s Orpheus (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

In complete contrast, Opera North is staging a new version of Orpheus, in which the company tells the story of Orpheus and Euridice via a meeting of the worlds of Indian and Western baroque music. Some might find this an odd concept, but it actually makes perfect sense: the greatest exponent of the role of Orfeo, Nigel Rogers, studied with the Indian singer Bhimsen Joshi, and it was from him that he learned the characteristic flexibility which marks the art of Indian singing, and which became Rogers’ own trademark.

Opera North is collaborating with South Asian Arts for this event, and the Music Directors Laurence Cummings – who also directed the Garsington production from the harpsichord, and sings small parts in both – and Jasdeep Singh Degun will be in charge of uniting this mixture of two cultures to form what will surely be a fascinating experience. You can catch it at the Grand Theatre in Leeds on 18, 20 and 22 October, at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal on 5 November, Nottingham’s Theatre Royal on the 12th, and at The Lowry, Salford Quays on the 19th.

The ’look’ of the respective stagings could not be more different: Opera North’s is blazingly colourful throughout whereas Garsington’s is restrainedly muted in the first part, all soft creams and whites, giving way to a dark and fiery underworld.  It remains to be seen if the Leeds offering will garner the same fulsome praise as the latter; why not judge for yourself, at one of the above venues and at Operavision on the 21st.

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