There’s a striking balance in the cast of Pinchgut Opera’s presentation of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses (City Recital Hall until June 19), which makes it difficult to identify a single stand-out performance. But this says much for the performers who each enjoy a diverse and illustrious history.

As Ulysses, it’s easy to dismiss Grammy-nominated Portuguese-born Fernando Guimarães’ exceptional presence "as-expected" when the rest of the cast easily meets the raised bar - and then exceeds it.

Fernando Guimarâes and Brenton Spiteri (Pic: Brett Boardman)

From the opening prologue, there’s a subtleness heard in the playing by "Orchestra of the Antipodes" required to accompany the non-amplified vocal performances proceeding from the stage. And it’s the subtleness that underlines this rendition of Monteverdi’s return to the world of opera in 1640.

Above all else, while the performance is unencumbered by overstaging or lighting zealousness (both of which, by the way, are astonishingly well designed for this presentation), it’s the challenge of intimacy and connection with the audience that makes this performance thoroughly engaging and suspenseful. Ulysses' wife carries the anguish of succumbing to the thought of being a widow. Her husband, even after dispensing with his wife's suitors and being reunited with his spouse, continues to be frustrated as she fails to believe he has actually returned from the Trojan War.

But amongst all the drama, Pinchgut has recognised the comedy gems of this Monteverdi piece, most obviously realised by Mark Wilde’s portrayal of the gluttonous Iro, making his way into the audience on more than one occasion, and undertaking some playful interaction with the orchestra, even once seeking a snack from the conductor.

And it’s these moments, available to all the cast in places, that lifts the entire show and sets it apart from perhaps more ‘lavish’ performances - and quite frankly is what makes Pinchgut so loved.

Catherine Carby plays a wonderfully troubled, yet measured Penelope. Lauren Lodge-Campbell is both stunning and commanding as Goddess Minerva. Roberta Diamond, playing a number of roles - as do much of the cast - leaves you in awe of such a powerful soprano projected from such a diminutive frame. Nicholas Tolputt, Jacob Lawrence, Doug Kelly and Wade Kernot each appear to easily slip between roles, hitting the notes and making no missteps with their dramatic and comic timing. While Brenton Spiteri, as Ulysses’ son Telemaco, leaves the audience in no doubt as to why he notches-up industry scholarships time after time.

Nicholas Tolputt, Douglas Kelly, Wade Kernott and Catherine Carby (Pic: Brett Boardman)

Not surprisingly for a cast of high achievers, the beautiful finale where the reunited Ulysses and Penelope sing of their happiness before the closing fade, might only be upstaged by the scenes early in Act 2. Here, most of the cast is found onstage together, and along with the magic of Monteverdi’s writing, the ensemble’s rhythm, movement and timing is perfectly matched, perhaps above anywhere else in the production.

Directed by Chas Rader Shieber, with the orchestra conducted by Erin Helyard (while deftly playing the harpsichord and chamber organ as if it’s just another day at the office), the audience is in safe hands with the entire company.

The only criticism? It’s a very limited season, closing on June 19.