REVIEW: English Touring Opera: Ulysses’ Homecoming at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

The New Theatre Royal at Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
The New Theatre Royal at Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
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The tale of an old salt returning home after prolonged absence at war provides an apt opener for the ETO’s first visit to Portsmouth.

Monteverdi’s baroque gem takes us through the climactic episode of Homer’s Odyssey when the tactician of the Trojan wars finally reaches his home island of Ithaca.

Having forsaken one siege, Ulysses finds another in progress: his wife Penelope, sung with a combination of tension and resignation by Carolyn Dobbin, is surrounded by suitors keen to replace him.

Right from the start, when the fate of mere mortals is shown caught in the net of the gods’ caprices, this clever and elegant staging unwinds through a skein of red threads from the ensnaring ropes of the pawing suitors to the taut bowstring of the returning hero’s avenging weapon.

The production revels in singing of clarity and strength right across the company, but particularly from Benedict Nelson as Ulysses and Nick Pritchard as Telemachus. Underpinning everything is the sustained elegance of the ETO’s baroque orchestra conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenney.