Reconstructing Baroque Opera

The recently opened Sam Wanamaker Theatre marks an intriguing step forward in the revival of baroque opera, says Mark Ronan. 

Mark Ronan | Published in 01 Jul 2014

The Sam Wanamaker TheatreThis year marks an intriguing step forward in the revival of baroque opera, which has gathered pace over the past half-century with the use of original instruments played in the style of the time. This further step is not the revival of the castrati — those castrated males whose voices carried huge power at a high vocal register — but the creation of a realistic performance space, lit entirely by candles.

Seventeenth century pieces were not performed in the vast auditoriums we have today, and putting on an opera from the Jacobean era in a modern opera house inevitably compromises the result. Over five years ago the Royal Opera at Covent Garden put on Cavalli's La Calisto, a highly colourful romp about sexual desires among gods and humans, but this year for his L'Ormindo, a sexual intrigue about two young men in love with the same queen, they have moved to a new venue specially catering to Jacobean theatre.

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