Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Ricky Ian Gordon [Photo Wikimedia]
19 Jun 2010

Orpheus & Euridice at Long Beach Opera

Early Greek writings say that Orpheus was the son of the muse Calliope and either Apollo, the god of prophecy and music or Oeagrus, the river god.

Ricky Ian Gordon: Orpheus & Euridice

Euridice: Elizabeth Futral; Orpheus: Todd Palmer. Concept/Director: Andreas Mitisek. Choreography: Ken Roht. Costumes: Marcy Froehlich. Videography: John J. Flynn. Scenery Designer: Alan Muraoka. Lighting Designer: Dan Weingarten.

Click here for libretto and other information concerning this production.

Above: Ricky Ian Gordon [Photo Wikimedia]

 

References to Orpheus survive from as far back as the sixth century BCE. Pindar called him the ‘father of song’. It was thought that his mother taught him to sing while Apollo instructed him on the lyre.To the Greeks of the classical age, Orpheus was venerated as animportant artist whose music could charm birds, fish and even wild creatures into docility. According to legend, he could change the course of rivers, make the rocks dance and make the gods of the underworld do his bidding. Both Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes say that he sailed with Jason and the Argonauts. When Orpheus heard the sirens’ voices attempting to lure the ship off course, he played his incredibly beautifulmusic and drowned out the evil witches’ songs.

It was Virgil who told the tale with which we are most familiar. According to him, Orpheus married Euridice who was soon bitten by a snake anddied. He was terribly distraught and sang songs so touching that the nymphs and the gods wept with him. Thus, Euridice was allowed to return to earth provided that Orpheus did not look at her on the journey. As soon as he reached the upper world, however, he turned to her, not realizing that because she was following a few steps behind him, she was not yet on earth. As a result, he lost her forever.

Virgil’s story is the model for Ricky Ian Gordon’s poem, Orpheus & Euridice. As with some nineteenth century writers, Gordon has written both the poem and the music for this opera, which can also be presented as a song cycle, since only one character actually sings. Euridice is both the bride who dies and the narrator, while Orpheus is a clarinetist. As Gordon put it:

‘In books it was a lute
but in my dream
it was a reed not a flute,
something richer, darker, starker...’

To play the part of the musician who could charm the inhabitants of earth, Mount Olympus and the underworld is, of course, a tall order, but clarinetist Todd Palmer was a perfect choice. It was easy to imagine hisexpressive, plangent tones allowing him to bargain with the gods of the nether world.

On Friday 11 June 2010, Long Beach Opera presented Gordon’s Orpheus & Euridice at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach,California. The pool is indoors and is set up with bleacher seating that allows spectators to watch swimming meets. It’s a rather unusual venue for opera, but Long Beach Opera is famous for performing in thought-provoking places. Here the huge pool was the River Styx, which Orpheus has to cross and recross in order to retrieve his beloved Euridice from the underworld. To paraphrase Anna Russell’s Ringanalysis, the scene opens in the river, in it. While soprano Elizabeth Futral who sang Eurydice and Todd Palmer as Orpheus only received an occasional splash, supers and dancers were engulfed by the chilling waters of the Styx for much of the performance.

O&E-055.gifTodd Palmer as Orpheus and Elizabeth Futral as Euridice [Photo courtesy of Long Beach Opera]

Clothed in a tasteful short yellow gown and matching wrap by Emmy-nominated designer Marcy Froelich, Futral was a vision of physical loveliness who sang with equal vocal beauty. At this watery venue, there could have been all sorts of echoes, so the performers had to wear microphones, but the sound design was well done by Bob Christian and Futral’s lustrous silver tones sounded much as they had in the acoustic confines of San Diego Opera. She had a most appealing stage presence while singing her lines with the utmost clarity and conviction. Stage director Andreas Mitisek is LBO’s general and artistic director as well. With capable artists, a minimum of scenery by set designer Alan Muraoka and most inventive lighting design by Dan Weingarten, the pool became the mythical river of the ancient Greek legend.

Palmer had actually commissioned the piece in 1995. He wanted a short work similar to Franz Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, and Gordon agreed to write it despite caring for a seriously ill partner at that time. The composer procrastinated for quite a while until one evening when he dreamed of Orpheus. That same night he wrote the poem and sometime later the music followed. The final work was, however, a great deal longer than expected and had many more ramifications than a simple song cycle for soprano, clarinet and piano. On Friday night, we were treated to the addition of a mellifluous string orchestra as well as the fine piano virtuosity of Melvin Chen. Conductor Stephen White led the ensemble in this dramatically alert, romantic performance and drew sterling contributions from all.

This was a most interesting experiment and it turned out to be a major success. The applause at the end was thunderous, especially when the composer took his bow. He has a show heading for Broadway and commission from the Metropolitan Opera, so we were very lucky to hear his work in such an intimate venue.

Maria Nockin

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):