Opera Scotland

Return of Ulysses 2017Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria

Magnificent and memorable Ulisse

2017 was the 70th year of the Edinburgh Festival, and the programme therefore a celebratory one with a distinctly expanded line-up of nine operatic works.

The 450th anniversary of Monteverdi's birth was recognised with a trilogy of Usher Hall concerts in which John Eliot Gardiner conducted L'Orfeo, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria and L'incoronazione di Poppea, seen together in Edinburgh for the first time since 1978.

The performances of the Monteverdi cycle were far more fully staged than expected, though without sets of any kind. Only the hall itself offered the arena. As with Orfeo the night before, the orchestra was divided in two to right and left, giving scope for lots of enjoyable spatial effects. Thunder and lightning effects also played their part.

Costumes were simple: black shirt and trousers for the brass players and chorus men, so they could enter and leave unobtrusively. Soloists added variable tops or smocks according to their roles. Giove, as chief god, was in white tie and tails, singing from high up in the organ gallery, and Giunone and Minerva as well as the top mortal, Penelope, were in evening dress. The performance was then fully acted out. The evening undoubtedly seemed long but the result was, as with Orfeo, a wonderfully gripping experience which held the audience in concentrated silence from first to last.

The leading performers were hard to fault. Lucile Richardot made much of complete stillness as she absorbed events - her beautifully-focused mezzo has a most unusual timbre, and her singing throughout the evening was beautifully poised. Furio Zanasi and Krystian Adam were again father and son, their reunion very moving at the hands of the shepherd Eumete - perhaps younger than usually portrayed, but shown as a friend as well as mentor for the young prince.

His other mentor, the goddess Minerva, was played with plenty of character by the previous evening's Euridice, Hana Blažiková. Zachary Wilder and Anna Dennis succeeded in creating three-dimensional and lively characters of the young shepherd Eurimaco and his lover, Penelope's companion Melanto. Robert Burt, as the glutton Iro, also dominated the stage at every appearance, ending with the first comic suicide in any opera.

An excellent young countertenor, Carlo Vistoli, was not in Orfeo, so seemed luxury casting in the short though important role of Human Frailty in the prologue - but he is fully occupied as the future Emperor Ottone in the Poppea cast.

Ulisse remains the least known of the three Monteverdi operas in these parts, though the Conservatoire in Glasgow mounted it beautifully a few years ago. However they have presented Poppea several times, with Catriona Morison their most recent Nero now established as reigning Cardiff Singer of the World.

It was disappointing given the excellence of the performance of Ulisse and the enthusiasm of the audience that there were empty seats upstairs.

Performance Cast

Humana Fragiltà Human Frailty

Carlo Vistoli

Tempo Time

Gianluca Buratto

Fortuna Fortune

Hana Blažiková

Amore Cupid

Silvia Frigato

Giove Jupiter

John Taylor Ward

Nettuno Neptune

Gianluca Buratto

Minerva

Hana Blažiková

Giunone Juno

Francesca Boncompagni

Ulisse Ulysses, King of Ithaca

Furio Zanasi

Penelope wife of Ulysses

Lucile Richardot

Telemaco Telemachus, son of Ulysses and Penelope

Krystian Adam

Antinöo Antinous, a suitor

Gianluca Buratto

Pisandro Peisander, a suitor

Michal Czerniawski

Anfinomo Amphinomus, a suitor

Gareth Treseder

Eurimaco Eurymachus, a shepherd, Melantho's lover

Zachary Wilder

Iro Irus, a glutton

Robert Burt

Melanto Melantho, Penelope's maid

Anna Dennis

Ericlea Euricleia, Ulysses' old nurse

Francesca Biliotti

Eumete Eumaeus, an old swineherd

Francisco Fernández Rueda

Performance DatesReturn of Ulysses 2017

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

15 Aug, 19.00

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