Orphee Et Eurydice review at the Royal Opera House – ‘dramatically exciting’
The Royal Opera season begins with a new production of Gluck’s famous score, performed in the later of its two versions (1774), composed to a French text and with a high tenor singing Orpheus in the shape of Peruvian star Juan Diego Florez – premium casting in the role.
With his acting as expert as his vocalism, he makes the legendary singer’s desperate decision to seek his dead wife Eurydice in the underworld and return her to the world of the living entirely convincing.
Florez receives strong support from the opera’s other roles, with Lucy Crowe offering a Eurydice combining character with vocal grace and her fellow soprano Amanda Forsythe making an equivalent splash as the god Amour (alias Cupid).
The main Royal Opera company, meanwhile, is in Japan, performing Macbeth and Don Giovanni under music director Sir Antonio Pappano; so for this production the regular chorus and orchestra are replaced by the renowned Monteverdi Choir and the period-instrument English Baroque Soloists under their founder-conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner – a Gluck specialist. From a musical point of view, the result maintains an extremely high standard.
And for once, the show is equally dramatically exciting. Unusually, it is jointly credited to two directors: Israeli-born, UK-resident choreographer Hofesh Shechter, who brings 22 members of his company to provide the crucial dance element in the piece, and the Royal Opera’s associate director, John Fulljames. Shechter’s striking choreography undeniably adds to the conviction of what is already a memorable staging.
Conor Murphy’s designs place the Monteverdi Orchestra on a platform at the back of the stage that moves up and down to reposition them at various levels. Semi-abstract in feel, the physical result is both visually and emotionally powerful, and all in all a spirited realisation of Gluck’s opera that launches the season in high style.
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