Terpsicore/Il Pastor Fido, Royal College of Music, London
St Lawrence String Quartet, LSO St Luke's, London

This shepherd's tale could do with a killer aria, but lo – there is a star

The passion for things pastoral – dressing as shepherdesses, dotting the gardens with sheep – reached the new Londoner Handel too, although he came quite late to the craze with a solitary pastoral opera.

Il Pastor Fido – the Faithful Shepherd – was reworked over 20 years before it was fielded, with dance prelude Terpsicore – at Covent Garden, in 1734, in a bullish attempt to outstrip the successes of a rival company. Opera was big business in those days. For two decades, characters came and went, acquired and lost arias, switched from high to low and low to high voices, and the result made up in length and preposterousness what it lacked in spontaneity.

The fundamental daftness of this cut-and-shunt offering, which contains only rare glimpses of the great human truths revealed in, say, Theodora, Rodelinda or the oratorio Samson, is given full rein in John Ramster's production with the Royal College of Music for the London Handel Festival. Here is a topsy-turvy world where the shepherd's easily led flock becomes a cohort of jobsworth guards, where hunting is absurd, not noble, and where, in a couple of bars, all impediments to true love can be removed, ready for a happy-ever-after ending for all, except the conniving minx Eurilla.

So far so whimsical, and yet there was something heavy-going about this production – a slavish attachment to repeats, albeit with ever more spectacular decoration, does not make for a light-hearted trip to Arcadia, even for those of us who, in general, find four hours of Handel tantalisingly brief. For all its reworking, Il Pastor Fido lacks the killer aria, although there are moments of beauty in the shepherd Mirtillo's reverie on sleep, and in the lament to thwarted love of his Amarilla, the stolid Eleanor Dennis.

As Mirtillo in the first of two casts, counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey's warm and athletic singing was the most engaging thing about this production – he is such a complete performer that his place in a student production is a mere technicality. We are sure to hear him everywhere soon. By no means outshone, counter-tenor Jake Arditti sang Apollo's stratospheric invocations, written for castrato, with wit and nimble ease, with Susan Shakespeare warm and energetic as his ally Erato. Annabel Mountford sulked and stomped gamely as the jealous Eurilla, but the businesslike London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Laurence Cummings, never quite caught fire.

The opera-ballet Terpsicore that prefaces the piece was written to show off the talents of Marie Sallé, who danced lightly clad and with unpinned hair – an aesthetic revolution at the time. Odd then, to have this Terpsicore all trussed up like Vivienne Westwood and nibbling about on her tippy-toes with traffic-cop arms: Mark Morris showed us how to dance to Handel 20 years ago in L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (revived next month), and there is no going back.

Always surging forwards, in his career, in his music, the composer John Adams nevertheless has one eye on the past in his two-movement String Quartet, given its UK premiere on Thursday. Written for the St Lawrence String Quartet, it has elements of Ravel's String Quartet, which preceded it in the programme. The Ravel in its turn was influenced by gamelan music, as leader Geoff Nuttall reminded the audience in a brief, spoken introduction. This dynamic performance of Adams's piece pointed up the percussive nature and rhythmic challenges of first- and second-hand influences, the fragmentary themes jabbed from player to player in a restless, questing exploration that closes with a few reassuring chords.

The intensity of purpose of SLSQ, the bravura of solo passages, and seamlessness of ensemble playing all served to revitalise the Ravel and illuminate the Adams. At the world premiere of his string quartet in Banff last year, Adams told his audience: "It's OK to leave ... not really having an idea what you've heard." Better still to leave like this – knowing that something tremendous has entered the repertoire.

Next Week:

Anna Picard is curious to see how the hit Aids play Angels in America translates to opera

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Film
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence