Erisbe, queen of Morrocco and Fez, loves both Ormindo, prince of Tunis, and Amida, prince of Tremisene, who have come to the military aid of her husband, King Ariadeno. Sicle, princess of Susio, loves Amida, who has been false to her.
They and their assorted pages, retainers, and ladies-in-waiting (yes, and gentleman-in-waiting - Erice, a soothsaying exotic in a "skirt" role) play out the far-fetched story of "L'Ormindo," where nothing is taken too seriously. And after a little pathetic suffering, a happy ending is snatched from the jaws of tragedy.Couched in the charmingly archaic arias and stylized recitatives of opera as presented in 17th century Venice, "L'Ormindo" is enlightening to the adventurous listener, and a sprightly evening of entertainment in BYU's enjoyable production.
Cavalli (1602-76) a pupil and colleague of the masterful innovator, Monteverdi, was a prolific composer of the new secular form, dramma in musica, which quickly moved from royal courts to the first opera houses. Cavalli's works (more than 40 in all) often led the bills at the splendid new San Cassiano Opera House.
Indeed, the effect here is that one is looking in on the Broadway of the 17th century - entertainment designed for a broad public, with the Moorish-exotic touches then popular, the charlatans and fortunetellers, the extravagant romance and gallantry, the humor and naughtiness of real people.
No one could presume to say that BYU's production is smooth, professional, or flawless in style. After all, Provo is a far cry from Baroque Italy; and many an artist spends a lifetime mastering the niceties of this sort of music, with its cruel demands for breath control and florid agility. Nor are the singers always in acceptable sync with the string ensemble, which performs Raymond Leppard's realization for modern instruments from the catwalks overhead.
But one must say that this sort of production is exactly what students should be aspiring to, learning about through doing, and growing up to.
Production values are good, with Dennis Todd directing a staging that seems stylistically correct, if sometimes awkward. Adam Russel has the right idea in his simple backdrop, combining classic and Moorish elements and Nancy Marble's costumes are pretty and authentic looking.
Outstanding among the young singers is Rebecca Pyper as the fair Erisbe, whose strong, flexible voice encompasses the role's legato and florid demands creditably. David Warner goes beyond mere technique to show considerable style and feeling as Ormindo, and Jennifer Jarvis as Sicle is on the right track toward dramatic coloratura.