Orfeo ed Euridice, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

If Scottish Opera never does another huge show again - this stylish new production, a homecoming directorial debut for former Scottish Ballet artistic director Ashley Page after his Boheme for Neville Holt Opera last year, is not scenically lavish and has a chorus of 20 and eight dancers alongside the three principals - it would be no terrible loss. If there were only a few more of this scale in a season.

Scotland has seen a few productions of Gluck's version of the classical tale, with Janet Baker, Lisa Milne, Gillian Keith and Michael Chance among those in the main roles, but the re-thinking Page has given the work would stand any comparison. Unsurprisingly, this is a choreographer's staging and his small troupe of dancers - including recently retired Scottish Ballet favourite Claire Robertson - have plenty to do in a version that adds dance music from the composer's Paris revision to the original score of 1762.

The result is a lucid narrative through which the movement flows naturally, and sometimes provocatively. Page's touchstone seems to have been the approach of the early 20th century modernists where decor and dance had equal billing with the music, evident from the opening scenes in which the deceased Euridice (Lucy Hall)is given a send-off by a stylish group of mourners that is as eloquent physically as Caitlin Hulcup's Orfeo is musically. Into this monochrome picture, both within and around Johan Engels' perspex box frame, steps Ana Quintans' Amore in 50s scarlet and looking more likely to invite a frolic in the Trevi fountain than a trip across the Lethe. In Hades itself, the Furies are also, naturally, red, but more futurist in garb. After the interval, Engels gives the Elysian Fields a more colourful backdrop and the company peasant-romantic costuming, probably the least successful of the evening.

With the sparest of design, there is never any doubt where we are, and Hulcup and Hall make the most of their roles, particularly in the dark comedy of the crucial scene as he attempts to lead her back. Mostly the instrumental support from the orchestra under Kenneth Montgomery is sound, but a little more urgency in some of the changes of mood - particularly from the strings - would not go amiss.