CITY RECITAL HALL ANGEL PLACE: Love conquers all in this delightful confection by Pinchgut Opera.
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]

Love conquers all in this delightful confection by Pinchgut Opera.

Written for performance at the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice during the Carnival season of 1644, ‘L’Ormindo’ was the third collaboration between the composer Francesco Cavalli and his librettist Giovanni Faustini. Once again this is a rarely performed Baroque work (apparently it was not revived in Cavalli’s lifetime and then there’s a gap until a major, influential – if abridged – version at Glynbourne in 1969) and it is believed this is the first professional production in Australia.

It has soaring, floating music, superb singing and expressive recitative by some of Australia’s favourite voices.

Set in Fez, Morrocco, it has a typical complicated knotty Baroque opera plot involving deception, betrayal, multiple lovers, (‘love triangles’ indeed!) lost sons, fake potions, infidelity, cross-dressing aides, attempted murder and mistaken identity in an intriguing blending of comic and serious elements. The main storyline however is the love between Ormindo and Queen Erisbe and how it all – eventually – ends happily.

Under the dynamic direction of Erin Helyard the Orchestra of the Antipodes glows. For this production it includes a Baroque harp, theorbos, recorders, lutes and a specially made lira de gamba to give an elegant, vibrant yet refined and liquid sound.

It is the singing that is superb though. David Walker in the eponymous counter-tenor role is glorious and he plays the part of the love struck prince brilliantly.

Fiona Campbell in the mezzo role of Erisbe is ravishing – a beautiful young queen trapped in a loveless marriage to Ariadeno, then devastated by Cupid’s dart and hopelessly in love with Ormindo. A magnificent performance. The extended ‘death’ duet in Act 3 for Ormindo and Erisbe is melting, moving and lyrical.

Trevor Pichanick as Ormindo’s best friend Amida, who has betrayed Sicle, is in fine form and sings wonderfully.

As Princess Sicle Taryn Fiebig extracts every ounce out of her role – at one stage despairing and lamenting yet joyously radiant at the end and having great fun as one of the ‘gypsies’. Anna Fraser in the dual roles of Melide and Mirinda is terrific. Kanen Breen as Erice has enormous fun pretending to conjure up Sicle’s spirit, telling fortunes etc.

King Ariadeno (Richard Anderson) has a commanding, threatening bass voice. While luxurious he can be tyrannical (at least at first) but softens graciously at the end.

Special mention must be made of Jane Sheldon’s marvellous performance as Nerillo, Amida’s page – saucy, jaunty and brash. As Osmano, Ariadeno’s captain, in love with Mirinda, Andrei Laptev is excellent giving a fine performance of a man torn between having to follow terrible orders yet attempt to save a man he admires.

Adam Gardnir’s versatile set is reminiscent of wavy shifting Saharan sand dunes with palm trees yet also represents a palace and a cave among other locale and has effectively used trapdoors. Most of the men are dressed as if from the French Foreign Legion Erisbe and Mirinda are in stunning long sleeved blue dresses high cut at the side. The ‘gypsies’ (in shocking pink) are dressed as if they have wandered from Pirates of Penzance or Kismet. Great fun. The ‘invocation’ of the ‘spirit’ of Sicle in Act 2 was most effective. King Ariadeno is shown as Asenbach like in a white suit, limping and leaning heavily on a stick.

There is actually also what could be seen as a proto-feminist writing with the way Erisbe rails against being trapped in her loveless marriage, also Erices’ comments in Act 1 and Mirinda’s show stopping finale to Act 1 (Anna Fraser has a great time flirting with the men in the orchestra, before addressing the women in the audience).

Grab this chance to see a splendid production of a rarely seen opera full of ravishing music and singing.

L’Ormindo opened last Wednesday 2nd December to a brilliant response! There are only 3 performances left: Saturday 5th at 7.30pm, Sunday 6th at 5pm and Monday 7th December at 7.30pm. Performances are at City Recital Hall Angel Place. Call Box office now on ph: 02 8256 2222 or book online here.

Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.