[Met Performance] CID:352019
New Production
Orfeo ed Euridice {83} Metropolitan Opera House: 05/02/2007.

(Debuts: Mark Morris, Allen Moyer, Isaac Mizrahi

Metropolitan Opera House
May 2, 2007
New Production

C. W. Gluck-Calzabigi

Orfeo...................David Daniels
Euridice................Maija Kovalevska
Amore...................Heidi Grant Murphy

Bradley Moore, Harpsichord

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Mark Morris [Debut]
Set Designer............Allen Moyer [Debut]
Costume Designer........Isaac Mizrahi [Debut]
Lighting Designer.......James F. Ingalls
Choreographer...........Mark Morris [Debut]

Production gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer J. Thomas, Jr.

The performances this season of Orfeo ed Euridice were dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

Orfeo ed Euridice received four performances this season

Production photos by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of David J. Baker in the August 2007 issue of OPERA News

Mark Morris's Met Staging of "Orfeo" is provocative, trendy and postmodern

"Astonish me," Diaghilev once urged Jean Cocteau when commissioning a ballet. It's easy to imagine the Metropolitan Opera hiring its new "Orfeo ed Euridice" production team in that same spirit. In their house debuts, choreographer - director Mark Morris, couturier Isaac Mizrahi and set designer Allen Moyer have obliged with an "Orfeo" (seen May 2) that is provocative, trendy, postmodern and dance-heavy. What's most astonishing is that the opera stands up so well to the makeover.

The production team affects casualness about style, tone and period. In framing the action as a play within a play, or a ballet within a play, Morris and his colleagues reverse the usual time relationship, placing their principals and dancers in the present and the spectator chorus in an assortment of recent centuries. In rows of bleachers well above the stage, the chorus members in most scenes become the main visual backdrop, the set itself.

In a nod to the cover for the Beatles' 1967 album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," these spectators seem to portray iconic historical personages - such as Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth I and Evita Perón - although it's hard to be sure of all the identities or of the purpose they serve. They may be intimations of immortality, attuned to this opera's triumph over death. Or are we watching guests at a costume party? Off-duty film extras? Delusional mental patients?

The production also refuses to choose between artifice (Amor) and sincerity (Orfeo and Euridice). There is no attempt to treat Euridice's revolving-door mortality as anything but a plot convenience, except maybe a joke, as Amor - in phony-looking wings, jeans, sport shirt and white sneakers - insists. The perils of Hades and the contrasting splendors of the Elysian Fields are neutralized by the spare choreography and an absence of specificity in Mizrahi's costumes for the principals and Moyer's functional metallic set.

Yet, paradoxically, the hero and heroine suffer with ardent commitment, totally winning our sympathy even as we see how flimsy and reversible are the losses and perils they face. The craggy setting for the climb back to earth (and Euridice's second death) respects the directives in the score and, unlike other scenes, does nothing to divert attention from the dramatic focus. Primarily, however, this fidelity to Gluck and Calzabigi at the opera's emotional core must be credited to conductor James Levine and the admirable performers of the title roles.

Few listeners are likely to notice the lack of eighteenth-century stylistics when the score is played and sung with such grandeur and warmth. In countertenor David Daniels (replacing the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, for whom the production was planned), we hear a historically appropriate treble timbre and tasteful vocal embellishments - from a figure in trendy black who radiates manly passion. The singer's earnest demeanor and emotional heat - from the rich-hued, forceful [initial] cry of "Euridice!" - make one overlook this Orfeo's modern guitar accessory and what Mizrahi calls an "Elvis-y" attire. Daniels excels at investing legato line with intensity - an ideal quality in a Gluck singer - and he can vary the timbre considerably. The only blemish that can be noted is prosaic Italian diction, which somewhat diminishes the effect of the rapid recitatives.

Maija Kovalevska was an unusually assertive yet vulnerable Euridice, wraithlike enough to be carried on and offstage in a trice, yet conveying her sense of rejection with forceful and eloquent vocalism. Heidi Grant Murphy was sometimes tiresomely cute as Amor, though her aria had undeniable spark. The Met chorus - prepared by the company's new chorus mas-ter, Donald Palumbo, in his first official assignment for the company - made the most of its many opportunities.

Morris's dances, starting mostly with strides, twists and hops, gained gradually in breadth and variety until the exuberant explosion of the whirling finale. Mizrahi's casual costumes relied at first on black, white and gray, except for Amor's candy pink; the designer then threw color all over the stage in the concluding dances. With the sporty choreography here, executed with street-style verve, Greek mythology seemed totally forgotten. The infectious celebration was all about youth itself.

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