Orpheus and Eurydice, English National Opera at the Coliseum

I wasn t present at the first night of ENO s revival of Gluck s Orpheus and Eurydice. And a good thing too as both principals were unwell and were replaced by understudies. Fortune was on my side as on the second night, when I attended, Artur Stefanowicz and Margaret Richardson duly returned in the title roles.

This could not have been an easy thing for either and, unfortunately, neither was it a resounding success. It remained clear that the two had been unwell, especially as far as Stefanowicz as Orpheus was concerned. His UK debut last season in Xerxes was a revelation. At the time, I thought he was one of the finest countertenors I had ever heard, and that a burgeoning international career beckoned. On this occasion as Orpheus, he sounded ill at ease and cautious, and his voice never truly rung out through the auditorium.

In the relatively small role of Eurydice, Richardson sung purely, with a gorgeous bell-like clarity, yet she too was obviously holding back. Roy Goodman, an expert in this music, succeeded in conducting a brisk, period conscious performance, and it was with him that most of the musical pleasures of the evening lay.

Martha Clarke s production concentrates more on the dance element than drawing coherent performances out of the singers, yet nevertheless, the whole evening is more invigorating than when it was new a few years ago.

It s hard to draw any concrete conclusions from this performance alone. Although the singers were off-form, they deserve praise for performing at all under the circumstances - a very brave effort from both Richardson and Stefanowicz. All going to plan, it should be a good night out at the opera once they are returned to full vocal health.

Keith McDonnell