Though renowned as a tour de force in the UK opera circle, the New Sussex Orchestra has some difficulties of late. Last spring, the NSO's A Village Romeo and Juliet struggled before the critics, being accused of swirling and throbbing, but with no direction and not moving anywhere.

Now in its fortieth year, the NSO had no such problem with this production, its clear and coherent storyline shining through.

Having been bitten by a deadly viper, a group of shepherds lament the death of Euridice around her grave. Orfeo, her husband, is beside himself, and vows to rescue her from the remorseless underworld. In some cruel twist, as sanctioned by Amor, god of love, Orfeo must neither look upon his love, nor explain to her why looking upon her is forbidden.

The original 1774 Vienna version of the opera had an unusually happy ending by operatic standards, with the pair being reunited, however the later 1762 Paris adaptation was not such a happy tale. 

Director James Fowler has drawn from both the Vienna and Paris versions to accomplish something quite remarkable. His all female lead cast is outstanding, with Kerri Dietz as Orfeo, Eleanor Janes as Euridice both deserving a special mention.

As with any NSO production, the chorus was full of warmth, with household names such as Tim Locke, Tilly Howarth, and Harriet Anderson. There are also some outlandish (if a little confusing) outbursts. For instance, in act 1, the chorus appears in what can best be likened to the dress-up of Richard O’Brien’s 1975 Rocky Horror Picture Show, juxtaposed with a baroque harpsichord accompaniment. This was a bizarre moment, but an enjoyable one.
Overall, a highly competent and innovative production.  

James Erskine