PERHAPS the crown jewels of this year’s festival – with further performances this weekend – this production of Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo is a delight.

The setting, the 1960s’ Brighton of Quadrophenia complete with parkas and cigarettes, is inspired. A strange but subtle dislocation between stage and the accompanying 400-year-old music forces you to hear Monteverdi’s music as something fresh.

Equally, the dance scenes – wedding party guests doing a speeded up and caricatured twist – made the audience smile, but served well to emphasise the other worldliness of the central part of the opera; the story of Orfeo’s descent into Hades.

The musical production has an immediacy and vitality that I found breath-taking. Both strings and brass have a lightness of touch that almost makes you fear the music could somehow float away.

The cast of young singers made what must be challenging sound easy; their confidence and understatement a perfect match for that lightness. First performed in 1607, the arias here are not the set pieces we are used to in later opera, so to modern ears the choruses and instrumental interludes provide the anchor points.

But don’t be put off – this is an exhuberant and engaging performance.