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In Review > International

Orfeo ed Euridice

TEL AVIV
Israeli Opera
5/16/12

Mariusz Trelinsky, the stage director of Orfeo ed Euridice at Israeli Opera (seen May 16), went much further than "interpreting" Gluck's opera. Trelinsky created a new script that he imposed on the Italian version of Orfeo, moving it from the realm of timeless myth to that of the private life of a very troubled modern couple. The entire production takes place in the couple's apartment, the stage showing a spacious master bedroom with bath and an ugly kitchen. The opera starts with an immediate cognitive dissonance when Euridice, a modern neurotic young woman, has a hysterical fit staged to the rhythms of the jovial overture: she beats the kitchen table, cuts her veins, throws herself on the double bed and then rushes to the bathroom to take an overdose of pills. When the overture ends, Euridice collapses and dies at the front door, where Orfeo finds her as he returns home. From that point on, the drama supposedly took place in Orfeo's tortured mind. At one point, Euridice's image entered and re-arranged clothes in her wardrobe. When the story required Orfeo to enter the realm of hell, it was symbolized by a huge fire shown on a large television screen placed on a level above the apartment, and by a short ballet of the furies, who danced in the apartment costumed in red dresses. The action gathered some energy with the return of Euridice. However, all through their long duet the couple kept moving all over the apartment. The crucial moment when Orfeo turns his glance at Euridice and loses her was not clear. 

Director Trelinsky stated in the program notes that the modernization was needed in order to make the opera relevant to today's audiences. I disagree with him. The myth of Orfeo is one of the richest in world literature and, moreover, a great source of more than one opera. By contrast, Trelinsky's story of a young woman who commits suicide for reasons totally unknown to us — and who leaves behind her distressed young husband — did not evoke any true emotions in me. It all left me cold.

Orfeo is a problematic opera, hampered by its load of ideological reform. Most of the opera is entrusted to Orfeo, but the piece comes alive only in his powerful duet with Euridice. Conductor David Stern — unlike Trelinsky — tried to remain loyal to the style of the opera, but delivered a generally dull musical performance. The small chamber choir sang from the orchestra pit, having no involvement in the action. As is customary nowadays, Stern cast the role of Orfeo with a countertenor. Alon Harari is endowed with a beautiful and rather full countertenor voice, but its emotional scope was too limited and its power insufficient, with the result that his part sounded monotonous and much too long. Claire Meghnagi, his Euridice, has a beautiful soprano that sounded especially rich and expressive in her duet with Orfeo. Hila Fahima was appropriately light and charming in the brief role of Amor. 

Stern encouraged the fine opera orchestra to play almost all the time in soft, subdued tones, with just a few outbursts; the score sounded like a series of pleasant suites. Fortunately, the opera ended with a lively rendition of the dance of the furies, which was moved there from the middle of Act II. spacer

JEHOASH HIRSHBERG

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