Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria is based closely on the fi nal books of Homer's Odyssey and is hailed as the key work marking the threshold between the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Together with producer Klaus Michael Grüber, Nikolaus Harnoncourt strikes a new balance between musical polish and distillation of the essence of dramatic action. 'It is a kind of 'théâtre pauvre', which works with a few carefully chosen and powerful symbols', was how the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reviewed the production. The main action takes place on little more than an angled revolving stage in front of a whitewashed wall which hints at the landscape of a Greek island. The sets have an apt simplicity, eschewing fussy detail and spectacular effects. The colours are cool, predominantly white, blue and black, transporting us to a modern day.
Harnoncourt's musical drive has become 'a touch gentler', wrote the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel. 'Not that Harnoncourt is now leaving things to chance or to the discretion of his exquisite musicians. But the way he communicates - his entire rostrum manner - seems to have become more relaxed, calmer, rounder, and both he and the listener are amply rewarded by the sound which results.'
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