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Opera Essentials: L’Ormindo

Our quick guide to Cavalli’s ingenious comedy, staged in the beautiful candlelit setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe.

By Paul Kilbey (Content Producer (Ballet))

3 February 2015 at 2.45pm | 2 Comments

The Story Begins...

Princes Ormindo and Amidas have both fallen in love with Queen Erisbe. But Erisbe is married to the aged King Ariadenus, whom the princes are meant to be helping fight the Spanish. Erisbe struggles to choose between her two suitors – while Amidas’s rejected lover Sicle plots her revenge…

Cavalli’s Return

The composer of L'OrmindoFrancesco Cavalli was a Venetian musician who sang at St Mark’s Basilica under Claudio Monteverdi and later took over from him as maestro di cappella. Like Monteverdi, Cavalli embraced the newly developed form of opera, and his works for the new Venetian public theatres were hugely popular during his lifetime. Though left unperformed for centuries, Cavalli's works have recently enjoyed a renaissance, with works such as La Calisto and Eliogabalo being performed around the world.

The Perfect Venue

Kasper Holten’s 2014 production was the first opera to be staged in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe – which itself only opened in January of that year. The beautiful, candlelit playhouse is closely modelled on English designs for an indoor theatre thought to date from 1660 – just 16 years after the premiere of L’Ormindo at the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1644. The Playhouse’s intimate scale is the ideal setting for Cavalli’s small instrumental ensemble, while the beeswax candles that adorn the performance space create a beautiful and dramatic effect.

Comedy and Tragedy

L’Ormindo is a prime example of Cavalli’s unsurpassed talent for witty, erotic comedies with wonderfully ridiculous plots – provided by his librettist Giovanni Faustini, a master of the form. But the opera also contains moments of genuine pathos amid the farce: when Sicle tries to woo back Amidas with news of her own death, or as Erisbe and Ormindo make their peace, fearing death is certain. Cavalli takes care with the characterization of even the minor roles, constructing a work that delights and moves in equal measure.

A Runaway Success
Holten makes ingenious use of the unique space of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in his fabulously entertaining production: gods descend through the ceiling, spirits clamber through the floor, candles are extinguished as the lovers draw close – all of whom are bedecked in Anja Vang Kragh’s fabulously inventive costumes. The production was acclaimed by audience and critics – The Guardian summarized, ‘A more exquisite evening would be hard to imagine’.

L’Ormindo runs 3 February–5 March 2015. Tickets are sold out but returns may become available.
The production is a co-production between Shakespeare’s Globe and The Royal Opera.

This article has 2 comments

  1. John P responded on 1 March 2015 at 11:17pm Reply

    We thoroughly enjoyed L'Ormindo by candlelight.

    We were very impressed by the English version of the libretto. Whose translation was it and when was it made?

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 2 March 2015 at 10:06am

      Hi John,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed L'Ormindo. Christopher Cowell provided the English translation for the premiere of this production in 2014 (you can find the credit on the central spread in the programme). Many thanks for alerting us to this omission on the website credits, which we'll rectify today.

      With all best wishes,
      Rachel

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