Handel’s Teseo - English Touring Opera
TONY COOPER Snape Maltings
The backstage team at Snape Maltings avoided having to cancel this performance on the day that saw the biggest tidal surge along the east coast since the 1953 floods. Being perilously close to the swollen river Alde, the team spent most of the day pumping water out from below the stage.
Handel's five-act opera, however, was worth fighting for.
Surtitles were presented in what ETO described as 'novel' in that the text was taken from the original wordbook that was distributed at the first performance of the work in 1713. It was unfortunate that the script was obscure and only occasionally relative to what was happening on stage. But the clever employment of an amateur choir as 'the people' to welcome Teseo home from battle was dramatic and effective. A section of the audience rose to their feet in a surprising spotlight and gave a very good account of themselves.
Counter-tenor Derek Lee Ragin was the only male member of the cast, which meant that it was all sung at a very high pitch. The nature of the piece is consecutive arias but it came to life in the duet between the two lovers, Teseo and Agilea - and again in the final five-piece ensemble. The use of period instruments lent great atmosphere.