Orpheus in the Underworld

The first performance of Orpheus in the Underworld took place as a two act opera in Paris in 1858. Offenbach continued to improve it and in 1874 it reappeared as a four act opera. But even then the critics gave it a bad press. However, Offenbach was able to prove them all wrong as it proved a great success both financially and as an entertaining operetta.


The recent performance of Kentish Opera's production had clearly moved on a long way from those early days and in my opinion it would be hard to award it less than 'five stars' for this recent production of 'Orpheus in the Underworld'. It gripped one from start to finish and 'tripped' through with verve.

Much praise must go to their director, Terry John Bates, for an imaginative and slick production. I would be very hard pressed to find much to criticise. All this of course is only possible with a responsive cast and there they were, with not only singing skills but also great acting and dancing ability.

The costumes were not only stylish, but imaginative and Carol Stevenson added so much to the performance in her area of expertise. In particular in Act II, which opened with its fluffy white heaven scene. Every costume was more stunning than the next and the whole stage was covered with (inhabited) sleeping bags and wiggling toes - memorable indeed!


Mark Fitz-Gerald and his orchestra should have a special mention for their sympathetic playing and their skill in never letting their sound become too loud, which so often can be the case.

In particular, Stefanie Kemball-Read as Eurydice seemed to go from strength to strength, even though she was on stage for a large part of the performance. Ian Belsey made a superb Jupiter and definitely enlarged the part by his cheeky acting and powerful baritone voice.


Lisa Swayne as Diana made light of her high notes. She projected her voice, enunciating her words especially well. The audience clearly enjoyed Greg Tassell whose cavorting contortions as Mercury were extremely skilful.

The slight Myvanwy Bentall as Cupid was gently flirtatious and showed off her pretty soprano voice in an understated way. She assumed her part of a young boy convincingly.

My final reaction to Kentish Opera has to be "Now follow that…………..!"

Pippa Hare
November 2009

Some of the photographs taken at the two dress rehearsals are available here.