Familiar to UK audiences as a recitalist, Dietrich Henschel has been inexplicably neglected by this country's opera companies. You get a strong sense of what a theatrical animal he is, however, from his performance of the title role in this flawed but compelling production of L'Orfeo, filmed in Madrid last year. The subtlety of Henschel's acting matches the complexity of his vocal characterisation so that, by the end, you not only feel you've been taken on a vast journey from joy to grief and back again, but also believe that Orfeo's own music really has the power to affect both gods and nature. The rest of the singing is variable, though Sonia Prina is a formidable Messenger, and there's a disturbingly charismatic Caronte from Luigi de Donato. Pier Luigi Pizzi's unfocused production opens in Renaissance dress, then slides forward in time towards dark, abstract modernity. The decision to allow Maria Grazia Schiavo to double as Euridice and Proserpina leads to narrative confusion in places. William Christie conducts Les Arts Florissants with exquisite refinement.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss