Scenes from the Los Angeles Opera production
Photos courtesy of LA Opera
Vivica Genaux scored another triumph at her Los Angeles Opera debut where she portrayed for the first time and to unanimous acclaim the title role of Orfeo in a new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
Los Angeles Opera’s theatrically modern version of an 18th century opera quite effectively captured Gluck’s reformist spirit of “building and shaping a new form of opera”* which he carried out by simplifying plot, emphasizing drama, imbuing his characters with genuine passion, and striking a delicate balance between text and music while eschewing the florid music made fashionable by his predecessors. In portraying Orfeo, Vivica rose to the challenge of Gluck’s “new” music with the same beauty of voice and incredulous agility that inform her now fabled interpretations of Handel’s and Rossini’s heroines. And with unfaltering stamina – Orfeo almost never leaves the stage.
Above are some scenes from this stylized, sometimes spare yet stunning production: from the funereal grief of the opening scene, through the fiery gates of Hades (created here with live flames), and on to the finale’s rapturous re-union. Che faro senza Euridice? (“What shall I do without Euridice?”) is the aria that cradles Orfeo’s grief and sums up the opera’s underlying drama. It is the “song,” if you will, that audience members most remember after seeing this production, perhaps because it is the most tuneful, but as importantly, because it was sung, as were all other arias and recitatives, with great poignancy and pathos by the ultimate Orfeo. Casting for this production was superb: Mario Bayo sang Euridice with her soaring soprano, and Carmen Ginnattasio was the delightfully endearing Amor; and the orchestra, conducted by Baroque specialist Hartmut Haenchen was brilliant, proving that he indeed is master of the genre.
Orfeo ed Euridice was produced and presented by the Los Angeles Opera from Novenber 29- December 21, 2003.
Photos: courtesy LA Opera
* according to musicologist Alfred Einstein