MICHAEL DRAKE Glyndebourne Touring Opera at Norwich Theatre Royal


Under the same direction as Peter Sellars' staging of Idomeneo earlier this week, this staging also courts controversy – while giving much to admire in high-class singing from principals and, especially, the chorus – backed by a quite splendid baroque orchestra conducted by Emmanuelle Haim.

Greeted in the auditorium by a brightly- lit, white, sparsely-furnished set with a trio of large glass urns, it brings third century Antioch forward for the opening Press Conference.

Christine Rice's performance as Irene, leader of the anti-establishment movement, with great presence and warm mezzo-soprano voice, was of star quality.

The Theodora of Vanessa Woodvine (taking the role at the last moment) squirmed through the part but sang it with much confidence opposite the never flagging counter-tenor of convert Didymus (Stephen Wallace). In lurid orange combat uniform too, fellow guard Septimus was brilliantly portrayed through the easily flexible tenor of Paul Nilon.

It was a theatrical experience but I am not sure it was totally enjoyable and well before the end I found that closed eyes helped – Handel doesn't need gimmicks.

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