An Arcadian idyll: Orfeo at Garsington Opera

One of the many delights of Garsington Opera is how the glass walls of the pavilion allow for the “action” to begin and continue beyond the actual stage and auditorium.

Being set in the exquisite Wormsley Estate, itself an Arcadian idyll, this is wonderfully appropriate for the first act of John Caird’s charming production of Orfeo, where the clad in white, barefoot singers and dancers, gambol outside and enter to assemble around a cooling pool, all designed by Robert Jones.

Into Claudio Monteverdi’s innocent and perfect world comes our handsome and beautiful Orfeo and Euridice, sung by Ed Lyon and Zoe Drummond. Joining in this scene of rural happiness are the English Concert instrumentalists and bliss reigns supreme. When the young bride is killed the ecstatic joy turns to the deepest of grief – and the interval marks the transformation into the trials of Orfeo as he enters Hades to bring back his beloved.

Having watched with satisfaction Euridice’s all too brief fulfilment as Orfeo’s bride, Diana Montague sings as The Messenger turns delight to desolation as she brings the tragic news of her death.

Ed Lyon

Image: Craig Fuller

Ed Lyon with musicians, singers and dancers

Image: Julian Guidera

Diane Montague

Image: Craig Fuller

This transformation brings director Caird’s mastery of theatricality to the fore with a fabulously effective use of set and characters to create the dark underworld, the pool becoming the River Styx and three black garbed women becoming Charon’s boat that carries the dead to the dark side. A huge ring that has been suspended above the set in Act One, with hanging garlands, now moves into place to become the gates of hell and through which the characters move on their ill-fated journey. In this ominous world Lyon comes into his own with a vocal performance that is quite intoxicating, no wonder Orfeo charms all who hear his music.

In this world Ossian Huskinson is a dark chocolate rich voiced Pluto whose wife Persephone, sung with seductive charm by Lauren Joyanne Morris, melts his will with her appeals to free Euridice to Orfeo, such is this heartbroken, passionate, and impressive singing from this young singing and lyre player Adonis (well Orpheus).

As the drama reaches its denouement our conductor is crowned with a garland and steps away from the harpsichord to sing Apollo and reward the heartbroken Orfeo with elevation to the spheres.

Just gorgeous.

Until July 3,

Main image Zoe Drummond and Ed Lyon

Image: Craig Fuller

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