The French version of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice (Orphée et Eurydice) may have premiered in 1774, but John Neumeier’s take on this classical masterpiece takes a myriad of liberties to update the setting.
On March 10, LA Opera continues its 2017/18 season with Gluck’s heartbreaking opera, in partnership with the Joffrey Ballet. Neumeier’s production has already been hailed as “achingly beautiful” (Chicago Tribune) and “brilliantly reimagined” (Opera News). Not sure of what to expect? Here are a few things you may not already know about LA Opera’s upcoming production of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The load-in for the Orpheus and Eurydice sets on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage began this week, but preparations for this production started long ago. This production is a group effort with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Staatsoper Hamburg, in addition to the Joffrey Ballet and Hamburg Ballet.
John Neumeier’s LA Opera Debut
The virtuosic John Neumeier makes his LA Opera debut as Orpheus and Eurydice‘s director and choreographer, but the list doesn’t end there — he’s the show’s set, costume and lighting designer as well. It’s many hats to wear for just one person, but Neumeier isn’t just your average director. He has been director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet in 1973, and transformed it into one of the world’s great ballet companies. Read about his interpretation of this Gluck masterpiece here.
Art Imitates Art
The plot may have been extracted from the Orpheus legend in Greek mythology, but Neumeier’s production takes its inspiration from a Symbolist painting. From the color scheme to the bold lines, Neumeier designed the entire production around Arnold Böcklin’s “Isle of the Dead” (“Die Toteninsel“). And he isn’t the only one smitten with Böcklin’s work — this same painting has inspired other artists for centuries, including Salvador Dalí, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Bernard Cornwell.
This isn’t your traditional setting of Orpheus and Eurydice, either. The original tale chronicles the journey of Orpheus, a musician, on his quest into the Underworld to bring his recently deceased wife, Eurydice, back to life. Our production’s timeline is updated to feature a modern-day dance troupe that is rehearsing a new ballet inspired by Böcklin’s “Isle of the Dead.” The choreographer, Orpheus, is devastated to learn that his wife, the company’s lead dancer Eurydice, has been killed in a car accident. Orpheus is comforted by his assistant, Amour (the God of Love in the original opera), who suggests the idea of an imaginary journey into the Underworld.
There may be a large focus on dance in Orpheus, but there is plenty to be said for the remarkable trio of singers in this production, who are all returning artists. As the heartbroken Orpheus, Russian tenor Maxim Mironov returns to LA Opera for the first time since his 2011 debut as the lovelorn Don Narciso in The Turk in Italy. He is joined by American soprano Lisette Oropesa as Eurydice. She made her company debut in 2014 as Rosalba in Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, and she’ll be back in Los Angeles again in May as Gilda in Rigoletto. Soprano Liv Redpath, a member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program whose many company appearances include Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann, sings the role of Amour.
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