Opera review: Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria
It took a while for the story to gather pace with a lengthy prologue and not much interaction between the characters until the frisky shenanigans between Melanto (Anna Dennis) and Eurimaco (Zachary Wilder).
Lucile Richardot’s strong earthy tones anchored the first half as the stoical Penelope resisting her suitors as she waits for Ulisse, the golden-voiced baritone Furio Zanasi, to return.
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner made the most of the hall space and moments of humour, mostly well-milked by tenor Robert Burt as Iro the glutton.
Gardiner gathered together a superb line-up of singers, especially tenor Kyrstian Adam (Telemaco), Francisco Fernández-Rueda (Eumete) and bass Gianluca Buratto. The ensemble scenes were the most successful such as the party, the suitors failing to string Ulisse’s bow and the sublime unaccompanied chorale.
The English Baroque Soloists were in fine fettle, the gentle thrumming of the chitarronis and baroque guitars along with two harpsichords and cornettos creating sumptuous and colourful musical textures. Two of the woodwind players entered into the spirit of the story by knitting, when they weren’t playing, and then unpicking it again.