For those who are expecting a preview of Venus and Adonis, I am afraid they will have to look elsewhere. What I have instead is a preview of a work in progress. John Blow’s baroque opera Venus and Adonis is the earliest surviving opera in English and directly inspired Purcell to write his famous Dido and Aeneas five years later.
Despite being a short performance of only about an hour, the simplicity of the storyline makes it a fairly ambitious one. Written c. 1630, the opera is composed of a prologue and three acts. The intended setting has been described to me as minimalist, as is the plot, which means that this performance is for the most part the responsibility of music director Timothy Anderson.
What I saw today were pieces of a rehearsal that made it difficult to appreciate anything other than disjointed bits of music. The music itself is beautiful and while the fairly limiting acoustics and aesthetics of St Catz’s music room (I’m hoping that the Simpkins Lee Theatre will do the orchestra and singers more justice) provided for a fairly underwhelming setting, there was a certain energy about the orchestra that made up for much of the missing dancers and costumes.
The singing itself was erratic though a large portion of that was very obviously due to the fact that it was the sitzprobe – the first time the orchestra and singers were practicing together. However, even to my fairly untrained ears, Venus and Cupid sounded far more confident and practiced than many members of the Chorus.
The cast, crew and orchestra have a lot to do before opening night. However, I have a feeling that this one might just be worth the ticket.