Orpheus (Owen Willets) in the grip of the Furies. Photo by Jade Ferguson.
Orpheus & Eurydice
By Christoph Willibald Gluck
Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Directed by Yaron Lifschitz
Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dane Lam
Opera Queensland in association with Circa
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: October 24-November 9. Sung in Italian with English surtitles. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or phone 136246
Cheers, foot stamping and a unanimous standing ovation greeted the curtain call at the opening night performance of Gluck’s opera Orpheus & Eurydice. That was some compliment for an opera which was first performed backin1762.
And what a monumental production it was even with only two principals, the Opera Queensland Chorus and a troupe of superb athletes from Brisbane’s world famous contemporary circus Circa. It was a fast and furious 90 minutes that I enjoyed from start to finish. In fact the only time I checked my watch when what I knew to be the final scene - which by the way was fantastic – began. One hour 20 minutes had flown by.
Circa’s Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz took the helm for this production and blended his artists and the opera content so perfectly that there was never a clash of form. The circus acts were big enough to bring gasps from the audience but not strong enough to overwhelm the opera. It was masterful direction.
English countertenor Owen Willets sang Orpheus and Australian lyric soprano Natalie Christie Peluso sang Eurydice and Amor. It was an impressive performance from the singers who were on stage and singing for a most the entire 90 minutes of the opera. Willets was even engaged in circus routines, which I thought very brave of him.
The two voices blended beautifully in duet, and solo work was spine tingling. It is not often we get to hear a countertenor, but Owen Willets’ exquisite and soaring tone made the wait worthwhile. All women in Orpheus’s mind were Eurydice, so Natalie Christie Peluso without a costume change was able to play Amor the conduit to the Underworld as well. It was a pleasure to hear her singing.
The show opened with the overture and a breathtaking solo display of solo circus aerial work which set the tone for the production. From beginning to end when the vocals stopped we saw slick, perfectly timed aerial and strength routines, contorted bodies and amazing balancing.
The action then took place in an asylum on a clinical all-white set, designed by the director, with iron frame beds and a house frame as the only props. The clinical atmosphere was helped along by a very effective lighting design from Alexander Beriage, video from Boris Morris Bagattini.
Orpheus is sadly deranged following the death of Eurydice and only when he sees Amor as a shade of Eurydice does he see the chance of a resurrection and take the gamble on bringing her back to life.
The decent into Underworld is all in his mind, but played out for the audience with love, desire, despair, frustration and fear. Constantly tumbling acrobats were the Furies and a black clad chorus gave extra menace.
The costumes were mainly red, but for Orpheus’s crumpled lounge suit. The surtitles were displayed on the rear wall with neat special effects. Everything was dramatic and super special
It was a fitting finale to an outstanding opera season.