Prior to the eventual publication of the score in the 1920s, heavy doubt was cast on whether Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria was actually by Monteverdi.
Some experts felt it wasn’t good enough. But evidence surfaced that certainly placed Monteverdi’s principle role in its composition – others may have been collaboratively involved – beyond doubt. We now accept it as the first of his late, large-scale works for the burgeoning Venetian theatre of the 1640s. Yet it is remarkably intimate, as this studio production by students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland enthusiastically demonstrates.
Directed by Mark Hathaway, everything about this presentation throws intriguing focus on the characters – Andreas Backlund’s bold and interesting Ulisse, Hazel McBain’s charismatic Minerva, Arshak Kuzikyan’s stentorian Nettuno, Eirlys Myfanwy Davies’ molten, golden-hued Penelope, and the striking tenor duo of Matthew Morgan (Eumete) and Luperci de Sousa (Telemaco), to name but a few in this sizeable cast.
Sure, there are signs that some of the young voices haven’t quite matured to the point of mastering this highly specialised idiom, and similar foibles rob the period ensemble, under head of opera Timothy Dean’s direction, of a truly definitive Monteverdi sound, particularly the strings. But as a piece of music theatre, this is a vibrant affair, especially in the up-tempo action of act 2 where the 20th century costumes (the mortals) go a bit Downton Abbey when the lively suitors arrive. A long evening is well sustained.