Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was the first big-name composer of operas in the middle of the Baroque era of classical music. This film of his version of the story of Orpheus and the underworld was made by the famed opera director and set-designer, Jean-Pierre Ponelle, with soloists and choir from the Zurich Opera House of Switzerland. In a step which was highly unusual at the time, the musicians and singers attempted to use authentically Baroque period instrumentation, instruments and vocal techniques under the musical direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The set design and costuming also reflect the visually stunning excesses of the Baroque period. Among director Ponelle's other films are similarly careful productions of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea and Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria.