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Breakdancing Orpheus with a blinding voice brings loads of life to Gluck’s opera in San Francisco – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United States Gluck, Orpheus and Eurydice: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of San Francisco Opera / Peter Whelan (conductor). Struggle Memorial Opera Home, San Francisco, 15.11.2022. (HS)

Jakub Józef Orliński (Orpheus) and Meigui Zhang (Eurydice) within the last scene © Corey Weaver

Director – Matthew Ozawa
Units – Alexander Nichols
Costumes – Jessica Jahn
Choreographer – Rena Butler
Lighting – Yuki Nakase Hyperlink
Refrain director – John Keene
Battle director – Dave Meier

Orpheus – Jakub Józef Orliński
Eurydice – Meigui Zhang
Amore – Nicole Heaston
Dancers – Alysia Chang, Brett Conway, Marian Faustino, Livanna Maisten, Christopher Nachtrab, Maxwell Simoes

On the downbeat of the overture to Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, a red-robed determine twirls on a handstand, his tumbling strikes creating an athletic dance. It takes a second to acknowledge that it’s Jakub Józef Orliński, whose clarion countertenor voices the title character in San Francisco Opera’s provocative new staging.

Dance performs an outsized function in director Matthew Ozawa’s manufacturing. Rena Butler’s choreography provides two trios of dancers to reinforce Orliński’s expertise for motion (he’s a champion break dancer as properly one of many world’s main countertenors), and that of soprano Meigui Zhang as Eurydice. The dancers, costumed in colours barely totally different from these of the characters, engagingly replicate subtly totally different attitudes because the story unfolds. At one level they intertwine their our bodies to type the gates of hell.

The staging performs on a slowly rotating turntable emblazoned with projected patterns which might be precise pictures of the workings of the human mind. Together with the trailing dancers, this instructed that the story would possibly all be within the characters’ heads, which helps the reasoning behind the feel-good finale, one of many few variations with the lovers reunited.

The costumes, together with yards of billowing yellow materials worn by the goddess Amore as she drifts from the rafters, and a refrain that strikes like a pack of hounds when it portrays the Furies defending hell, make for a blinding spectacle. If all that appears a bit a lot, what may very well be extra Baroque?

The Orpheus story appears to be having a heyday. The story of a singer whose track is so highly effective he might go to hell and again to rescue his spouse has beguiled composers for the reason that beginnings of opera. Those we normally hear (by Monteverdi, Gluck and Offenbach) have gotten fairly a couple of new productions throughout the globe lately, and Matthew Aucoin’s ingenious new Eurydice was a success final season on the Metropolitan Opera. Anais Mitchell’s blues-saturated Hadestown made waves on Broadway too, in a unique, psychologically profound telling.

San Francisco Opera hasn’t staged the story since 1972 (Monteverdi), and the Gluck model solely as soon as (in 1959). A 1995 live performance model of Gluck’s opera (in French with Hector Berlioz’s orchestration), that includes Jennifer Larmore and Daybreak Upshaw and carried out by Donald Runnicles, gained a Grammy Award for a recording.

Jakub Józef Orliński (Orpheus) in the course of the overture © Corey Weaver

For this go-round, the corporate went again to Gluck’s authentic 1762 Vienna rating. Orliński’s countertenor rang out gloriously in Gluck’s punishing sequence of arias and scenes. For greater than half of the 80-minute piece, it’s just about all him, with occasional interruptions from the refrain and Amore, till he lastly encounters Eurydice in Act III. There was an virtually feral edge to his sound, however he might rein it in for tender moments, particularly within the nice Act III aria, ‘Che farò senza Euridice?’.

Meigui Zhang, who starred within the firm’s revival final season of The Dream of the Purple Chamber, displayed her personal dancing chops in some superbly choreographed moments with Orpheus, particularly within the climactic scene through which she can not perceive why Orpheus won’t even take a look at her, or why she should observe him. The sheen of her soprano melded properly with Orliński’s steely excessive notes.

Soprano Nicole Heaston, who registered strong success because the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and Despina in Così fan tutte within the firm’s latest Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy, made for an enthralling Amore. She was enchanting in her entrance aria, ‘Gli sguardi trattieni’, sung from a swing excessive above the stage, and when she absolved Eurydice for wanting again within the deus-ex-machina lead-up to the blissful ending in the course of the ‘Tendre amour’ trio.

The refrain not solely moved menacingly as Furies and drifted picturesquely as Misplaced Souls and Placid Shades, however delivered Gluck’s choruses with gusto and precision. The six dancers shadowing the primary characters created a outstanding visible complement to the storytelling, their very own athletic actions usually portraying totally different facets of Orpheus and Eurydice’s considering.

Irish-born conductor Peter Whelan, a champion of Baroque historic efficiency and music director of Scottish Chamber Orchestra, led an lively efficiency from the 46-piece orchestra.

Matthew Ozawa, who had latest successes at San Francisco Opera with progressive stagings of Fidelio and Barber of Seville, saved the visuals busy however not a lot in order that it took something away from the non-public interactions. This was very true within the climactic last scene, once we might clearly see the nervousness and drama taking part in out between the title characters.

Ultimately, accurately in an opera the place music prevails, the brightest facets had been within the spectacular voices. And a few well timed breakdancing.

Harvey Steiman



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