The English Touring Opera company do a magnificent job of bringing opera to a wider audience throughout the country, and gathering new converts to this sometimes neglected genre of musical entertainment. We chose to see the 17th century Venetian opera, La Calisto, by Cavalli, a convoluted tale of classic mythology, unrequited love affairs between nymphs and gods, mistaken identities and some rather amusing cross-dressing.
The libretto is sung in English but two large television screens set either side of the auditorium gave helpful précis versions of the plot and were not intrusive to the stage. The set is modern, an arrangement of ironwork ladders, cogs and steering wheels, separating the heavens from earth with a rather quirky slide on which some of the artists make an entrance, but the costumes are splendidly colourful and traditional; Satirino the half-goat was particularly cleverly done.
Paula Sides plays the central role of Calisto, the virgin nymph who falls in love with the goddess Diana but in reality it is Giove, the god of the universe disguised as Diana (are you following me here?) who seduces her. Her singing is beautiful, even when required to paddle vigorously in several inches of I imagine cold water at the well. I enjoyed Adrian Dwyer’s portrayal of Linfea, the warrior nymph, and Nick Pritchard’s sharp Mercurio.
George Humphreys gave a fine performance as Giove, especially when disguised as Diana which produced suffused giggles from the audience, as did Katie Bray in the shape of Satirino, the half goat. The production as a whole was most enjoyable and the platform for some excellent singing from all the cast, and of course the orchestra needs to be included in this accolade.
If you think opera is not for you, give it a try as mostly the plot doesn’t need to be understood and you can just sit back and enjoy the theatre of it all.