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Orphee review at Linbury Studio London

In Es Devlin’s remarkable designs, imaginatively lit by Bruno Poet, the seemingly infinitely adaptable Linbury Studio takes on an entirely new configuration for this UK premiere production of Philip Glass’s 1993 opera. With the audience seated on opposite sides of the proscenium arch, the central performing space rises and falls to offer a multi-layered view of events, based on Jean Cocteau’s classic 1950 movie.

It is a world of ambiguity and mystery, tellingly recreated in Francisco Negrin’s production. At its source is the age-old myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, refracted through Cocteau’s highly personal version and then refracted again through Glass’s distinctive score.

Glass devotees will revel in its sustained repetitions, though his detractors will be bored. But in this work, more than in previous scores, Glass rises to a couple of scenes – one set in the Zone, the kingdom of death, the other the close of the piece, when the poet and his wife resume their life together – that are harmonically memorable and even melodic. The rest is the Glass mixture as before.

But all in all a worthwhile venture for the Royal Opera, though musically things are not as precise under conductor Rory Macdonald as they deserve to be. There are vocal uncertainties too. But Ha Young Lee fascinates as the enigmatic Princess, Jared Holt works hard and to some effect as Orphee and both Katie van Kooten as Eurydice and Andrew Kennedy as Heurtebise are confident.

Production Information

Linbury Studio, London, May 27-June 5

Philip Glass
Francisco Negrin
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Ha Young Lee, Jared Holt, Andrew Kennedy, Katie van Kooten
Running time
1hr 20mins