L’Orontea by Cesti in Frankfurt

First we discovered Monteverdi, then Cavalli; now Cesti who like his Venetian contemporaries wrote moralistic comic pieces set in classical times, love and lust generally triumphing over reason and sobriety. The Frankfurt staging of L’Orontea was my first encounter with Cesti and there was much to enjoy, the music well reflecting the chaos of amorous relationships as the work develops. Conductor Ivor Bolton’s fondness for it was evident and was shared by some but, I suspect, not all of the singers. Paula Murrihy in the title role was superb, vocally secure, and catching exactly the right balance between dignity and emotion. There were attractive performances from the other females, Louise Alder, Kateryna Kasper and Juanita Lascarro, but their male counterparts disappointed. Although Sebastian Geyer was an imposing Creonte, Xavier Sabata in the leading role of Alidoro, seemed out of sorts vocally, with a dry tone to his counter tenor. Both Simon Bailey, mixing chest notes with falsetto while obsessed with his genitals, and Guy de Mey as the all too familiar drag queen, outstayed their welcome. Visually the production gave much pleasure (designer Gideon Davey). I liked the crimson and maroon of the sets against the black background, as also the presence of doll-like cupids throughout, observing their influence on the mortals. The British director Walter Sutcliffe fashioned a nicely ambiguous ending, but for the most part did not provide a convincing balance between broad comedy and introspection