There can hardly be a greater contrast between The Mastersingers of Nuremberg at English National Opera, which I’m about to head out to, and L’Ormindo performed in the warm intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe Theatre. The 340-seat theatre, tightly packed and lit exclusively by candlelight, is a perfect setting for early Baroque operas such as this one by Francesco Cavalli. Standing for £10 was a bargain on any measure, even if my days of standing through performances are rapidly running out.
There were a wealth of wonderful performances, with Ed Lyon as Amidas, Samuel Boden as Ormindo, Graeme Broadbent as King Ariadenus, Susanna Hurrell as Erisbe and Rachel Kelly as Mirinda. There was much doubling amongst these and the smaller roles, with teh cast completed by Harry Nicoll, Ashley Riches, Joëlle Harvey and James Laing. Christian Curnyn led a small, crisp-sounding ensemble from the Orchestra of the Early Opera Company, perched up in the musicians’ gallery of the theatre. There was good use of the performing space in the simple production by Kasper Holten, with comic touches nicely introduced in the English translation. Lighting was supplied by the movement (vertically) of the candlelit chandeliers, and other use of candles both handheld and on candelabra, all contributing to a surprisingly changeable atmosphere.
It was difficult, in some senses, for the performance to compete with the theatre, so unusual and remarkable was the experience of opera in that sort of space. And how nice that the designs were discovered amongst the significant collection of Inigo Jones papers at my old college – Worcester College, Oxford – a story I hadn’t hitherto known. Definitely a theatre worth keeping an eye on for other such performances.