Opera in four acts to a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline. Version adapted by Hector Berlioz, premièred in Paris in 1859.
Marie-Claude Chappuis Orpheus
Mirella Hagen Eurydice
Julie Gebhart Love
Claire Carpentier, Elodie Chan, Tommy Entresangle, Charlotte Le May, Coralie Meinget, Margherita Mischitelli Dancers and circus artists
Collegium 1704 Choir and Orchestra
Václav Luks Director
Aurélien Bory Stage direction and scenery
Taïcyr Fadel Dramaturgy
Pierre Dequivre Sets
Manuela Agnesini Costumes
Arno Veyrat Lighting
Hugues Cohen Assistant director
Under the patronage of Aline Foriel-Destezet
Performance in French with French and English surtitles.
Orfeo is without a doubt the opera of operas: from Monteverdi to Rossi, at the very origins of lyric art, then with Gluck and his reform of the opera in Italian in Vienna and in French in Paris, and ultimately with Berlioz in a romantic version (and before Offenbach's brilliant parody), the romantic fate of this Greek poet is enduringly perpetuated on theatre stages. After Eurydice's sudden death, Orpheus goes to seek his wife in the Underworld. His song has the power to appease the Furies and animate the Blessed Spirits, allowing the couple to return to the path of light... towards their destiny.
Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice caused a great stir in Enlightenment-era Europe. However, after 80 years of performances of the Paris version of Orfeo first presented by Gluck in 1774, the score used at the Paris Opera had been greatly transformed by regular use, the successive corrections and modifications corrupting the work. In 1859, Berlioz enthusiastically agreed to work on a revised version; his admiration for Gluck made him an intimate connoisseur of the work and its multiple Italian and French versions. He thus dissected it down to the last detail, in order to produce a “modern” version that was nevertheless true to Gluck. “Let us abandon ourselves fully to what moves our soul and not give in to anything that might prevent us from enjoying ourselves!” Berlioz threw himself into his task of adaptation with great enthusiasm, certain that he would finally produce the version of Orfeo that the Second Empire had been waiting for. He was right. “We are stunned!” said Berlioz of Orpheus’s grand aria, as the audience must also certainly have been.
For Berlioz, the title role required above all a great singer with “a powerful and noble organ”. And to return to Gluck's original tessitura in Vienna, he chose the contralto voice (in place of a castrato) instead of the usual tenor, which made it possible to entrust the role to the great Pauline Viardot, the glory of the Opéra de Paris, whose voice had, according to Berlioz, “an exceptional range, at the service of a great art of broad phrasing, (...) an indomitable, lively, despotic verve, a deep sensibility and almost deplorable faculties for expressing immense pain!” All his Orpheus is there, never leaving the stage and guiding us with the music from shadow to light, the extraordinary power of music to overcome death...
The beauty of the work owes as much to the intensity of the exchanges as to the eloquence of the orchestra and the spectacular involvement of the choir. The Underworld act with its Furies, its chorus of Demons and the heart-rending supplications of Orpheus is one of the greatest moments in Western music. Director Aurélien Bory shapes the dizzying spaces through which Orpheus travels, brought to life by Marie-Claude Chappuis, while Václav Luks unleashes the wizardry of the musical virtuosi.
First performed on 12 October 2018 at the Opéra Comique
Co-production by the Opéra Royal / Château de Versailles Spectacles, Opéra Comique, Opéra de Lausanne, Opéra Royal de Wallonie, Théâtre de Caen, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg
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