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Early Opera Company at Spitalfields Festival

excerpts from
Cesti’s il pomo d’oro,
Marrazolli’s La Vita Humana
Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea
and Rossi’s Orfeo

Mhairi Lawson soprano Anna Stéphany mezzo-soprano Benjamin Hulett tenor
Bojan Cicic & Miki Takahashi violins Emilia Benjamin viola da gamba/lirone Alison McGillivray violone Richard Sweeney theorbo Joy Smith baroque harp
Director Christian Curnyn/harpsichord/organ

Christ Church Spitalfields 19 June 2009

Early this month we attended at Sadler's Wells a dire Classical Opera Company presentation of Mozart's Mitridate, en-route for the Buxton Festival, in which the important researches of their artistic director, Ian Page, had been vitiated by crass stage direction and less than adequate singing by some of the principals; see MusicalCriticism's 2-star appraisal - - not merely an incoherent production but also some problematic vocal interpretations that fatally affected this latest Classical Opera Company presentation - -. The staging was rudimentary and almost incomprehensible and we decided not to review it.

The balance for the cause of early opera was redressed at last night's concluding concert of the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2009. A sequence of excerpts from 17 C operas by Cavalli, Cesti, Marrazolli & Monteverdi given by Christian Curnyn's Early Opera Company (the two easily confused with one another) made for an exquisite experience.

These were all carefully chosen gems, some of their composers still little known. The singers were all strong - Hulett sometimes a little unvariably so; Anna Stéphany concentrating more on line than Italian diction. Mhairi Lawson [pictured] - recently back at work after a maternity break - was the star of the evening and evinced huge enjoyment which we all shared - superb diction with Scottish-rolled r's, changing her voice and stage presence, e.g. for Monteverdi's black humour in Nerone's delight at Seneca's suicide !

We were led to expect 'all the richness of a late renaissance orchestra' and, amazing to relate, the unusually exotic seven-piece line up had, in the supportive acoustic of Christ Church and from fairly near the front, a sumptuousness which compared well with Raymond Leppard's pioneering realisations for large orchestra at Glyndebourne which thrilled us in the '60s & '70s...

A CD in the making here?

Peter Grahame Woolf