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Monteverdi: L’Orfeo (DVD)

Krystian Adam, Hana Blažíková, Anna Dennis et al; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner (Opus Arte / DVD)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Monteverdi
L’Orfeo (DVD)
Krystian Adam, Hana Blažíková, Anna Dennis, Kangmin Justin Kim, Lucile Richardot, Francesca Boncompagni, Gianluca Burrato; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner; dir. Sébastien Glas (Venice, 2017)
Opus Arte DVD: OA1347D; Blu-ray: OABD7298D   119 mins

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This production of Monteverdi’s first opera (1607) is semi-staged but such is the captivating movement of the characters and chorus (particularly in the first three acts) that one hardly notices the lack of scenery – it certainly beats many of the rather stilted ‘Orpheus in the underpants’ productions we have seen over the years.

The story focuses on Orfeo and his attempts to rescue Euridice from the underworld. Krystian Adam (as Orfeo) is dramatic (especially in the underworld scene) and lyrical throughout, though he lacks a little resonance and ‘edge’ and does not quite match famous interpretations such as those by Nigel Rogers or, more recently, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro. Hana Blažíková (as Euridice and as La musica in the Prologue) acts not only with her voice but also with her nuanced physical gestures. Perhaps both singers might have added a little more stylistically appropriate ornamentation.

Other strong contributors include Lucile Richardot (the Messenger) who gives a moving narration of Eurdice’s death in Act II, and the countertenor Kangmin Kim (Hope), who guides Orfeo down to Hell and lights up the gloom with his clear and arresting voice. The orchestral playing and choral singing really are splendid, despite some rather languid tempos here and there – especially in the procession to the temple just before the shepherds’ duets at the end of Act I. As with John Eliot Gardiner’s 1990 recording of the opera (on Archiv, recently reissued), the whole work is performed a tone above written pitch which adds a certain brightness to the sound.

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Anthony Pryer