Jason - English Touring Opera - Britten Theatre, 4 October 2013
Giasone or Jason, Cavalli's greatest hit emerges trimmed and translated as a witty commentary on fidelity in English Touring Opera's new production.
Substantial cuts have shorn the Golden Fleece from the tale, not to mention the Argonauts. Jason pursues Medea while his wife Isiphile waits for him at home. When fate brings his mistress and his wife together, Jason's cowardly choice is undone by the intervention of Medea's suitor Egeus. A happy ending ensues. None of this bears much relation to the myth it is based on, but it's miles funnier in Ted Huffman's pacey production.
Samal Blak's designs made an important contribution. His costumes immediately signalled who each character was, clearly distinguishing the comic from the serious. It can be hard to create a single set that does the business all the way through, but his versatile Scandinavian-style palace was imposing yet unobtrusive - even if those wobbly doors need fixing.
An understudy nearly stole the show. The stuttering servant Demus gets some of the best and silliest lines, and tenor Peter Aisher, still studying at the RCM, made the most of them. His manic energy contrasted with the reserve elsewhere. The relationship between Clint van der Linde's Jason and Hannah Pedley's Medea had more tenderness than fire, which worked better at the beginning than the end. Catrine Kirkman played the part of the deceived wife Isiphile to perfection, and John-Colyn Gyeantey was a soulful Egeus. Michal Czerniawski as the old nurse Delfa was unnervingly feminine.
Joseph McHardy got a lively performance from the period instrument Old Street Band, and the whole thing whizzed along. This opera doesn't come round often, and while part of me would have liked to see it in its entirety, there is a lot to be said for this sort of intelligent cutting.
production photos (above) Richard Hubert Smith
curtain call photos (below) intermezzo.typepad.com