Photo Journal: Mark Morris's Staging of Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: Mark Morris's Staging of Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met
 
Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera that has almost as much dancing as singing. So when the Metropolitan Opera decided to mount its first new production of the work in 35 years, it chose as director the choreographer Mark Morris — "whose passion for vocal music," writes Tobi Tobias for Bloomberg News, "may even outweigh his love of dancing."

His production opened the night before last — and "the results are strange and beautiful," says Tobias, "which is to say typically Morris." (We offer some photos of said results below.)

He and his team of designers "have approached the task of filling the vast Met stage with wit and imagination," writes Mike Silverman of The Associated Press. "The 22 dancers, mostly from Morris's own troupe, perform modern-dance routines that are seamlessly integrated into the action, their costumes changing colors as the action moves from Earth to Hades to the Elysian Fields and finally back to Earth. The chorus also takes part in the choreography with carefully timed hand and arm movements."

Allen Moyer has designed a semicircular set which holds the powerful Metropolitan Opera Chorus, arrayed in three tiers and commenting upon the action. Each chorister is costumed by Isaac Mizrahi as a particular historical personage — Abraham Lincoln, King Henry VIII, Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Liberace ...

The set divides in two and ultimately turns into a dark, cave-like labyrinth through which Orpheus leads Eurydice back to the world of the living.

The character of Orpheus thoroughly dominates the opera, and countertenor David Daniels similarly dominates the stage, according to the critics. "Few singers sound as poignantly natural," writes Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times, "he's a wonder, with a warm, virile voice of enormous expressivity." Alastair Macaulay, the Times's dance critic, found that "his singing embodies Orfeo's musicianship."

Soprano Maija Kovalevska portrayed Eurydice with "striking beauty and [an] earthy voice," (Tommasini), while Heidi Grant Murphy "was a delectable and slightly goofy Amore" (Silverman), "cheerful [and] unpretentious ... as if rescuing troubled lovers from catastrophe were all in a day's work" (Tobias).

"That [Met music director] James Levine is enthralled with this music came through in the sensitive performance he conducted," continued Tommasini. "He drew emphatic and majestic playing from the Met orchestra."

Orfeo ed Euridice receives three more performances at the Metropolitan Opera House: tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. (broadcast over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera Radio Network), May 9 at 7:30 p.m. (simulcast in free streaming audio at the Met's website), and May 12 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets and information are available at www.metopera.org.

All of these performances of Orfeo are dedicated to the memory of the great mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was to have played the title role.

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All photos by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

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