Orpheus in the Underworld - Opera Holland Park, 2 July 2009
Is is panto season already? Opera Holland Park's Orpheus aims low and hits the target. By the time the final can-can kicked up its heels, most in the near-capacity audience were cheering, clapping and stamping along.
The film-of-the-opera format seemed to me an unnecessary layer to add to a work which already has too many ideas for its own good. The production failed to pick out Offenbach's cynical portrayal of bourgeois morality, marital fidelity and the foibles of the ruling classes, and I don't think it even tried to draw them together as a coherent political satire. But it did pick up a few laughs with its crudely stereotyped Stroheim-style German director and camp clipboard johnny. Lavish costumes provided a hint of Hollywood-style glamour, but the crude sets and lame dialogue were strictly am-dram. Knicker-flashing can-can dancers and a rubber-catsuited female chorus showed more clearly where its aspirations lay.
The performances were a real mixed bag. Only Oliver White (Mercury) and Ian Caddy (Jupiter) were equally at home with the singing, the acting, and the extensive dialogue. Jeni Bern sang Eurydice with sweetness and wit and very proper English, but turned into an Essex princess of toecurling charmlessness in the spoken sections. Daniel Broad (Pluto) and Nicola Stonehouse (Diana) also turned in decent vocal performances, but there were disappointments elsewhere. Some of the cast were nearly inaudible - though in a couple of cases that may have been a blessing.
The closing Galop Infernale (aka can-can) was the most succesful part of the evening, a rattling display of skills from the dancers and the game orchestra (by now sporting devilish horns on their heads). A party in hell indeed.