My personal favourite 'L'Orfeo' (also my favourite of Monteverdi's opera, though this reviewer also loves 'L'Incoronazione Di Poppea' and 'Il Rittorno Ulisse in Patria') is the Jean Pierre Ponnelle film, but this is my pick for second best.
Visually, it is hard to resist the wonderfully elaborate costumes, beautiful palace setting, atmospheric lighting of the first half, and once things becomes more tragic the darker, more sparse and more symbolic look is appropriate and striking. Video directing allows one to see all the action and also be moved by the more intimate parts of the opera.
Pier Luigi Pizzi's staging is some of his most intelligent and poignant, never falling into distaste or dullness and doesn't make the mistake of being potentially static. It actually respects the opera and is true to the spirit of the mood, even when more symbolic when it gets more tragic. Loved the use of dancers too.
Musically, there is much nuance, refinement and pathos in the orchestral playing, and William Christie conducts with a nimbleness and a feel for letting the music breathe but keeping the drama alive.
Dietrich Henschel is a very moving and emotionally heartfelt Orfeo, particularly shining in the persuasion scene with Plutone. Also outstanding is Maria Grazia Schiavo in three roles, faring the strongest as La Musica. Sonia Prina is highly musical and expressive, and Antonio Abete is a commanding Plutone. The weak link is the Caronte of Luigi Di Donato, he is spot on in interpretation providing much elegance and nuance, but vocally he is somewhat too lightweight. This said, this is not enough to spoil the production.
Overall, brilliant and one of the best productions of 'L'Orfeo', second best in fact after Ponnelle's. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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