Rappresentatione Di Anima, et Di Corpo

‘Enjoyer’ of opera ALICE CARR on what happens when one of the world’s first operas is given a modern twist.

cassie Gorman dand'souza et Di Corpo guy hayward lucy cronin modern Rappresentatione Di Anima stephan gericke Trinity College Vita Mondana

Trinity College Chapel, Wednesday 14th March, £5/£1o


Trinity College Chapel provided a grand and imposing backdrop for Rappresentatione Di Anima, et Di Corpo. Composed by Emilio De’ Cavalieri in 1600, its position as one of the world’s first operas posed some difficulties for modern interpretation, but the opera certainly lived up to its arresting surroundings.

It must be difficult to present an old, allegorical opera to today’s audience, so modern dress was used to attempt to make it feel more current. Musicians sat holding noticeably old and authentic instruments, juxtaposed with the modern cast who sauntered down the chapel aisle in suits and short sequined dresses, chatting on mobile phones.

The set was also modern, and minimalist, but the few stage props (two road signs and a trolley) were redundant. I wanted more interaction with the modern elements in order to refresh, rather than just update the work: sure, idle members of the chorus occasionally checked their mobiles, but otherwise the performance was distinctly seventeenth century. Some touches were effective: Consiglio wielded an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ sign whilst he sang of the world’s ‘bitter enemies’, and Intelletto proffered his wisdom whilst dressed as a Big Issue seller. But the pink cowboy hats, Hawaiian leis and smudged make-up became tiresome rather quickly.

The use of space was wonderful. The cast was constantly moving, ambling down the aisle and reassembling. At one point, the chorus crept behind us before delivering a powerful song, startling the audience (in a good way) while surrounding them with beautiful melodies from every direction. Likewise, when an angel sang down to people on earth, she did so from the balcony behind us, and it really did create the effect of a celestial voice booming from above. The stage direction made the performance energetic and innovative.

The instrumentalists were musically faultless, which is to be expected of such high-calibre performers, but their controlled, effortless accuracy really made the show. The cast, made up of Cambridge’s best student singers, was impressive. Ruth Fraser and Guy Hayward gave a competent and consistent performance of Anima and Corpo, with excellent vocal range, while Cassie Gorman (Piacere) and her Due Compagni, Dan D’Souza and Stephen Gericke were exuberant and jovial. Laurence Williams’ Consiglio was resonant, although the voice of Vita Mondana, played by Lucy Cronin, was weak.

Jack Lawrence-Jone’s performance of Tempo and Mondo was initially wooden, but he soon got into his stride with a more emotion. At times, the acting was overplayed, or simply did not engage with the performance, but this was outweighed by emotive and moving singing. In particular Gwilym Bowen’s effervescent performance of Intelletto was engaging, as he moved through the aisle with urgency. The chorus was wonderful, and their delicate harmonies were strong; their initial power in the first act, however, was not maintained throughout, and they never matched their opening energy again. However, the star of the show was Amy Lyddon, as Angelo Custode, whose vocal range and powerful voice commanded a heavenly presence on stage.

Overall, this was a highly successful, enjoyable and professional performance of one of the world’s first operas. I only wish they hadn’t resorted to gimmicks in its quirky modern interpretation, because otherwise this was truly excellent.