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Orfeo - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
Prom 25 was a performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo, with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. As you would expect for such high-profile names, it was a popular concert. After a somewhat chilly queue, the pre-Prom talk was popular too, taking in the context of the work's commission and first performances, noting also that this isn't the first opera, but asserting that it is the first great opera.

I find it confusing that the opening fanfare is shared with Monteverdi's later Vespers of 1610 (Orfeo dates to 1607). It's not that it was (or indeed still is) uncommon for a composer to re-use themes so much as that the subject matter for the two works should be so divergent. This production proceeded without an interval, so it was quite an intense couple of hours. Gardiner made use of all the devices available to him in the Hall - offstage musicians, entrances and exits through the Arena, splitting the orchestra very effectively with a space in the middle of the stage for the soloists to come forward, and becoming a bystander himself in the curiously up-beat finale. All the soloists performed well, but I might pick out Francesca Aspromonte (Music/Messenger) and Gianluca Buratto (Charon/Pluto) for particular commendation.


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