Image: Admeto, re di Tessaglia. Photo: Theodoro da Silva.
Doris Dörrie’s production of Admeto, re di Tessaglia takes Handel’s opera based on the Greek myth of Alceste and her love for her husband Admeto, King of Thessaly, and transplants it into Samurai Japan. Essentially a comedy, involving deception, disguise and a complicated love triangle, the cast of this impressive performance manage to convey, as well as humour, intense and dark feelings of horror, love and jealousy.
One of the most striking aspects of the performance was the set – simple, stark screens, shifting the depth of the stage for changing settings. These were lit in varying colours to signify the emotion of the scene, intensified by a variety of light effects – for example the vast flickering orange shadows of Hades, or when both Admeto and Alceste sing their most anguished arias, a deep dark stage lit by a column of chilling blue light. There came a shock, however, in the third act; here the sharp, stylised set was discarded in favour of a luxuriously painted baroque palace and gardens – this marked a change in tone, with comedy heavily emphasised, eventually descending into bizarre slapstick.
The ten Butoh dancers added to the mood – near naked and painted ghostly white, their distinctive, sometimes grotesque but always pure movement was particularly effective in their role as the Furies, tormentors of the sick Admeto in the opening scene and captors of Alceste in Hell. They also provided a comic element, as frolicking deer in the forest and a nonchalant flock of sheep. Tadashi Endo, the solo dancer, represents Alceste’s changed spirit after her return from the underworld –like a shadow, he is always beside her, until she is finally reunited with her husband and jealousy is no longer present in her heart. Dressed like something from a horror film and moving in deathlike spasms, the dancer’s constant presence was disturbing and ominous.
These vivid images were accompanied by the superb FestspielOrchester Göttingen, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, who engaged with the audience as well as the orchestra. With a brilliant cast of soloists and some strange and fantastic costumes, this bold interpretation of baroque opera left the audience stunned and exhilarated.
Reviewer: Joanna Ramasawmy