The operas of Cavalli are not easy to perform. They stylistic and technical challenge account for their relative absence from the repertory, and it is a rare ensemble that can bring these works to life. Opera SW has done just that in a delightful production of Cavalli's "L'Ormindo," starring Alburtt Rhodes.
Prince Ormindo is one of two suitors of Erisbe, Queen of Moroco, who is quite ready to leave her "impotent old husband" by the end of the first act. A second suitor, Amida, is waylaid by an old girlfriend, and Ormindo and Erisbe manage to survive even the old king's poison to sing out a happy ending.
Tenor Rhodes was impeccable in the title role. Gentle staccatos on a single patch are often the sole ornamentation indicated in the score, and these should be sung with soft edges, somewhere between Monteverdi and Handel's styles. This and more Rhodes did with sweet, open tones in his best performance in memory.
Soprano Catherine May and bass Dale McKinley were equally impressive as the royal couple. Much less effective was baritone Charles Kopfstein-Penk as Amida. The part is written an octave higher, but even with this in mind his was an embarrassing performance of yawning near the pitch with weakly supported sounds.
The orchestration was twice removed from the original, being a rearrangement of the arrangement by Raymond Leppard. Still it worked and moved quite well. "L'Ormindo" will be repeated May 15 and 16 at Westminster United Presbyterian Church.