Tag Archives: Helen May

L'egisto

L’Egisto

★★★

Cockpit Theatre

L'egisto

L’Egisto

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2021

★★★

 

“a treat to see emerging young opera stars tackle less well known works”

 

L’Egisto, billed as a showcase for advancing young singers by the Hampstead Garden Opera, does just that in this new version of the 1643 opera at the Cockpit Theatre. Francesco Cavalli, the composer of L’Egisto (with libretto by Giovanni Faustini), was a pupil of Monteverdi, and enjoyed great success in his own time. Despite languishing forgotten until his rediscovery in the 1970s, Cavalli is now gaining popularity once again. It’s easy to see why. The opera provides lots of opportunities for the stars to show their singing abilities, and there’s even enough drama to keep the characters interesting. Some of the tropes may seem outlandish to modern eyes (Egisto’s mad scene for example) and it’s difficult to sympathize with the gods’ petty meddling in the lives of the unfortunate lovers. But there is a freshness and charm to the unfolding of events, plus some wonderful comic roles for minor characters. This opera is a perfect choice of vehicle for young singers in that regard.

The Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of L’Egisto is easy on the ears, with a talented orchestra and some outstanding voices, but fails, however, to impress the eyes to the same degree. Some choices were forced upon the company, since we are still emerging from the pandemic. Nevertheless, staging L’Egisto with an audience carefully socially distanced on three sides shouldn’t have had problematic sight lines that could have easily been eliminated if the stage had been less cluttered. With performing space at a premium in the Cockpit, it was difficult to see how the addition of shiny disks and gauzy drapes could add much, other than to distract the audience from the performers, and the performers from focusing on each other. The production itself was long; the pace appropriately measured. This production of L’Egisto would have benefitted from more economy of staging, and perhaps more attention to the performers’ costumes which seemed at variance with the opera’s setting and themes.

Setting aside, this is an ambitious production that has two casts alternating with each other for each performance. This is a great idea given the length of each performance and the fact that the company is performing twice daily. In the matinee I attended, I saw Kieran White (tenor) take on the role of Egisto with believable passion and musical dexterity, and he was well matched with his Clori (Shafali Jalota, soprano). The baroque orchestra, under the direction of Marcio da Silva, was a pleasure to listen to. They were also well placed at the back of the performing space, so that the audience could see as well as hear them.

If you are curious about baroque opera, and have yet to make Cavalli’s acquaintance, I encourage you to see this production. It’s also a treat to see emerging young opera stars tackle less well known works like L’Egisto.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Laurent Compagnon

 


L’Egisto

Cockpit Theatre until 13th June

 

Shows reviewed by Dominica this year:
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | ★★★ | Online | February 2021
Adventurous | ★★½ | Online | March 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

L'Incoronazione di Poppea

L’Incoronazione di Poppea
★★★★

Cockpit Theatre

Incoronazione di Poppea

L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 30th January 2019

★★★★

 

“every person involved demonstrated a high level of vocal and acting skills”

 

First performed in Venice in 1643, L’Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea), tells the story of Poppea, mistress of the Roman Emperor Nero (Nerone), in her pursuit to become Empress. This production of one of the first operas to use historical events and figures manages to engage a modern audience through timeless themes and talented vocal performances.

Although there are central characters, this work is best described as a strong ensemble piece. All ten performers engage well with each other, displaying believable levels of emotion as well as physical connections. There are no awkward gaps between scenes, with performers making seamless entrances and exits.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a standout performance as every person involved demonstrated a high level of vocal and acting skills. However, the scenes and duets between Poppea and Nerone must be mentioned for their intensity and passion, excellently delivered by Kathleen Nic Dhiarmada and Helen May. Joana Gil as Drusilla brings a welcomed level of comedy and light, particularly during her early scenes with Eric Schlossberg as Ottone. Ottone’s love for Poppea is earlier rejected by her, and he offers to marry Druisilla when he realises he cannot win Poppea’s affections.

Accompanying the singers is a baroque period ensemble, led by Marcio da Silva, who is both Stage and Musical Director. Instruments include two harpsichords, an organ, lutes, a baroque guitar, baroque violins and a cello. These are all skilfully played and complement the vocal performances well.

The opera is performed in Italian with English surtitles, which are projected onto a wall upstage. This generally works well and the words are clear. At times, it did prove difficult to switch focus between the words and the performers on stage, but this could simply be due to the fact that having surtitles as part of a production is arguably quite rare and something that takes getting used to from an audience perspective.

Although first performed in the 17th century, L’Incoronazione di Poppea explores the timeless themes of love and its power, lust, ambition and sex. A minimalist set and contemporary costumes, as well as these themes, help a modern audience to engage, whilst the baroque ensemble means there is still a traditional feel. For someone who’s not hugely familiar with opera, I was impressed and feel inspired to broaden my knowledge of the genre. A sensual, well-delivered production!

 

Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Andreas Grieger

 


L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Cockpit Theatre until 1st February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cantata for Four Wings | | April 2018
Into the Woods | ★★★★ | May 2018
On Mother’s Day | ★★★½ | August 2018
Zeus on the Loose | ★★ | August 2018
The Distance You Have Come | ★★★★ | October 2018
Don’t You Dare! | ★★★ | November 2018
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019

 

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