MIAMI: Orfeo ed Euridice
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In Review > North America

Orfeo ed Euridice

Florida Grand Opera

In Review FGO Orfeo lg 618
Anthony Roth Costanzo, FGO’s Orfeo
© Chris Kakol

ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO'S Orfeo infused Florida Grand Opera’s Orfeo ed Euridice (seen Mar. 17) with star power. Standing on a gentle green slope at the back of the immense stage at the Ziff Opera House, watching from a distance as mourners attended to the corpse of Orfeo’s wife, Euridice, the countertenor’s voice cut through the chorus like a missile of grief when he first intoned the name “Euridice.” Costanzo sang with clarity and power that gave the audience as much of a jolt as did Euridice’s sudden death, inserted into the onstage action here during Gluck’s cheery overture by stage director and choreographer Keturah Stickann. In keeping with Gluck’s desire to fuse music and drama in his reform operas, Stickann filled the instrumental interludes with dramatic business, as Orfeo journeyed to the underworld to retrieve his wife and back again.

Costanzo delivered as an actor as well. Strings seemed to swell from his heart as he examined a flower that had fallen during his wife’s funeral procession. Trumpets moaned as he ran his hands across the stage in search of her. The few vocal embellishments that Gluck retained in his effort to simplify opera seria were rendered by Costanzo not merely as virtuoso feats but as expressions of Orfeo’s anguish. Costanzo’s most sublime moments, however, were the quietest, as he conveyed the deepest feeling with pianissimo notes that caressed the entire hall. 

Conductor Anthony Barrese kept pace, following Costanzo’s shifts in dynamics and tempo and drawing a sprightly sound from the FGO orchestra. Jessica E. Jones, a recent graduate of FGO’s young-artists program, stepped in on opening night as a late substitute for the originally announced (and more seasoned) Eglise Gutiérrez. Jones, who had been scheduled to sing in the show’s second cast, could be heard recalibrating her voice early in the opening-night performance, unleashing her power to match Costanzo’s intensity. Soprano Evan Kardon, a current FGO Young Artist, held her own as Amor, the emissary from the gods who grants Orfeo the chance to save his love from the underworld. Both Jones and Kardon boast full-bodied, lyrical voices that blended beautifully with Costanzo’s sweeter, more piercing sound. The chorus, directed by Katherine Kozak, provided the soloists with a dense, emotionally charged backdrop.

In her choreography, Stickann cleverly incorporated the chorus into the dance numbers, increasing the impact of the eight-member ensemble from Dimensions Dance with a lovely blend of pedestrian movement and classical flourishes. In Elysium, a blindfolded Orfeo was passed to his beloved from dancer to dancer via pirouettes. In Hades, the clinging, orange-and-black body stockings that encased the Furies left Stickann almost no choice as a choreographer but to reenact a hellish version of Martha Graham’s famous “Lament,” with chorus members poking their elbows and knees through the material, while Dimensions dancers carried Orfeo over the threshold to the underworld. 

Heidi Zamora’s otherwise relaxed costumes, borrowed from a 2012 Seattle Opera production, evoked the Pacific Northwest with black coats and knit caps on the mourners and loose-fitting long pants, shirts and skirts above and below ground. Orfeo and Euridice were dressed entirely in white and always in the spotlight. The striking, contemporary sets designed by Phillip Lienau, also for Seattle Opera, represented the horrors of Hades with the gnarled branches of menacing trees and revealed both the lovers’ earthly home and the Elysian Fields through which Orfeo pursues Euridice as green, open spaces.  —Celeste Landeros 

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