The masterpieces of early opera are essentially sung plays that must be brought to life by words and the accouterments of staging rather than by beautiful singing.
Saturday's cast for Francesco Cavalli's "Ormindo" (1644) at the Peabody Conservatory of Music was not generally outstanding in vocal terms but the performance was an unqualified success.
In less than discerning hands, this opera -- which recounts the adventures of Ormindo, the Prince of Tunis, who loves Erisbe, the wife of the elderly Ariadeno, King of Fez -- can seem pretty light stuff. But the staging of Roger Brunyate, who also created the sets, was sure and sensitive. In the comic first act, he made the audience aware of the ways in which Cavalli's drama parodies itself, and in the initially tragic second act, he was able to make his young singing actors plumb the depths.