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Review: Lafayette’s Double Bill of Baroque Opera and Dance Drama


The spirit behind Opera Lafayette’s new double bill is so enterprising that you applaud the idea as much as the achievement. Both works are Baroque; both are set in a dark forest; both take their stories from the 16th-century Italian poet Torquato Tasso. Opera Lafayette, a company based in Washington, D.C., plays both pieces with period instruments. The program — half opera, half dance-drama — reached the Gerald W. Lynch Theater in Manhattan on Friday night.

The first work is Act I of Alessandro Scarlatti’s 1723 opera “Erminia” (the only act that survives); the second is a dance drama, Francesco Geminiani’s “La Forêt enchantée” (“The Enchanted Forest,” 1754/1761). The enterprise is made bolder by giving the ballet to Kalanidhi Dance, a troupe that performs the classical Indian genre of Kuchipudi, choreographed by Anuradha Nehru. Richard Ouellette’s décor, with a central pavilion amid a grove, serves for both productions, with slight emendations.

This Lafayette-Kalanidhi collaboration is a sequel to their 2013 work on Félicien David’s opéra-comique “Lalla Rookh” (1862), a drama set in India. In August 2017, some of the Kalanidhi “Lalla Rookh” scenes (set to taped music) were brought to New York under the aegis of the Erasing Borders festival of Indian dance; I loved those, especially Ms. Nehru’s use of tableaus that, swaying as if in the wind, evoked several layers of Orientalism.

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