John Eliot Gardiner conduct a concert version with the Monteverdi Choir & English Bach Soloists in Davies Hall on Monday night. The entire performance was beautiful & refined, & the youthful cast all had attractive voices. Tenor Andrew Tortise as Orfeo sounded captivatingly sweet & resonant throughout, with a nice ring to his high notes & pleasing low notes. Soprano Francesca Aspromonte sang Music & the Messenger with a dramatic range of dynamics, & her sound was pure & penetrating. She began her act 2 narrative offstage. As Euridice & Hope, soprano Mariana Flores had a focused, slightly reedy sound, & she colored her voice nicely for Euridice's brief appearances.
Bass Gianluca Buratto was terrific as the infernal characters Caronte & Plutone. His voice was firm & powerful, and he went down to a low D smoothly. His Caronte skulked around the stage like Iago, & I like that his singing was befittingly gruff at times. I enjoyed the extroverted sound of tenor Krystian Adam, who sang the First Shepherd appealingly & with much variety.
The soloists were also members of the chorus, who all sang from memory & participated in the story fully by reacting & gesturing. Characters theatrically entered & exited the stage for their scenes, & there were a couple of lighting cues. The female soloists even danced & played the tambourine, with the chorus clapping along. The women wore different brightly colored dresses for acts 1, 2 & 5, but everyone was in black for acts 4 & 5, which take place in Hades. When the chorus sang in unison they made a gorgeous bell-like sound that seemed to have an aura around it.
Maestro Gardiner is a tasteful conductor. He pointed a lot with his left hand, & the ensemble was always perfectly together. Tempos were stretched & indulgent & seemed to slow down as the evening progressed, making the event feel like a ritual rather than a drama. The orchestra of period instruments was clean & bright. The famous opening toccata employed different combinations of instruments for each repetition & sounded brilliant. I was glad I was close enough to the stage to see the toy-sized violino piccolo in act 2 & to watch the elegant harp solo during "Possente spirto." All the performers looked delighted to be there.
The concert was intermissionless & ran a full 2 hours. A handful of people bailed before the end, but the audience was quiet & respectful. We were clearly not supposed to interrupt the performance with applause, but at the end the audience gave the performers an immediate & lengthy standing ovation.
§ English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner, conducting
Music/Messenger: Francesca Aspromonte
Orfeo: Andrew Tortise
Euridice/Hope: Mariana Flores
Nymph: Esther Brazil
Proserpina: Francesca Boncompagni
Caronte/Plutone: Gianluca Buratto
First Shepherd: Krystian Adam
Second Shepherd/First Spirit/Apollo: Nicholas Mulroy
Third Shepherd: James Hall
Fourth Shepherd/Third Spirit: David Shipley
Second Spirit/Echo: Gareth Treseder
San Francisco Symphony
Great Performers Series
Monday, April 27, 2015 at 8:00
Davies Symphony Hall