Thursday 14 November 2019

Dorilla in Tempe: Baroque opera embraces opulance

Dorilla in Tempe, National Opera House, Wexford, Until Nov 2

Laura Margaret Smith in Dorilla in Tempe. Photo: Clive Barda
Laura Margaret Smith in Dorilla in Tempe. Photo: Clive Barda

Katy Hayes

La Fenice theatre, Venice, comes to Wexford Opera Festival with this supremely confident and sexy production of Antonio Vivaldi's 1726 three-act love quadrangle.

The production perfectly matches the Baroque richness of the music with opulence of concept and design. The story involves princess Dorilla falling in love with Elmiro, a shepherd; but her father wants to give her to another man as a reward for slaying a dragon.

There is also a jealous sister Eudamia, an ambitious hunter Filindo, and the god Apollo, who pretends to be mortal. Several of the male parts are sung by women. Conductor Andrea Marchiol gives the music lots of texture but also turns to exquisite delicacy in places. Director Fabio Ceresa creates abundant drama and spectacle: a Chinese dragon-style serpent slinks about; giant trees sprout from the ground; dancers are beautifully used, in particular as a group of hunted red stags.

An entire drama is played out inside the skirt of Eudamia. Design is high colour and texture, with Greek, Asian, and Italian inflections. Virtuosic performances in all the leads front the layered and lovely chorus work. This is a rich confection, with sweet rewards for the romantic lovers on the stage, and for the opera lovers in the audience.

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