L’Ormindo, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse - opera review

An inventive and witty production authentically lit by beeswax candles

Having broken new ground by coming into existence, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has broken more ground by hosting the first collaboration between the Globe and the Royal Opera in a production of Cavalli’s rarely-performed L’Ormindo.

To see a 17th century Venetian opera in a charming replica of a Jacobean theatre – authentically lit by beeswax candles - is an experience in itself, and doubly so with a production as inventively witty as this one by director Kasper Holten and his designer Anja Vang Kragh.

Cavalli, who assumed Monteverdi’s mantle as Venice’s leading opera composer, was a prolific funster who delighted in setting up preposterous situations, and this work turns on seductions and disguises which Holten’s talented young singer-actors comically exploit to the hilt.

They also sing wonderfully, most notably the tenor Ed Lyon and the haute-contre Samuel Boden opposite Susannah Hurrell and Joelle Harvey as their paramours, both of whom excel with their expressive coloratura.

But what makes the evening magical is the delicate balance maintained between the raunchiness on stage and the exquisite tissue of arias, duets, and intermezzi spun out under Christian Curnyn’s musical direction, perfumed by the dark suggestiveness of the theorbo and the sweetness of the harp.