Co-Production with Ne. Sans Opera and the Dance Centre
Orfeo Ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck

When & Where Saturday, December 4, 7:30pm & Sunday, December 5, 2pm, 2021 | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Director & Choreographer Idan Cohen Conductor Leslie Dala Assistant Conductor Jennifer Tung Set Design Amir Ofek Lighting Design Itai Erdal Costume Design Evan Clayton Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

Euridice Krisztina Szabó, soprano Orfeo Mireille Lebel, mezzo-soprano Amore Mireille Asselin, soprano Dancers Aiden Cas,s Alexis Fletcher, Kate Franklin, Ted Littlemore, Rachel Meyer and Hana Rutka

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Reviewer John Jane

Orfeo Ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, based on the myth of Orpheus. Gluck composed two versions of his Baroque masterpiece: the Vienna original, in Italian and a French language adaptation a decade later to suit Parisian tastes. The more focused of the two is undoubtedly the Vienna original. The version presented by Vancouver Opera is closer to the original.

Director and choreographer Idan Cohen manages to bring together modern interpretative dance and 250 year-old music. The dance vocabulary is free form, yet with some classical syntax. Cohen employs six dancers – four female and two male. Dancers are identically costumed, but rarely dance in unison. Each dancer’s movements are distinctly choreographed.

There are only three soloists in this opera: two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano who takes the male lead. On stage for the duration is Vancouver native, mezzo-soprano Mireille Lebel as Orfeo, who delivers a stellar vocal performance. Orfeo is a lover, hero and diplomat; Ms. Lebel’s mellifluous lower register is uniquely suited for the role of Orfeo. Her third act showpiece aria Che farò senza Euridice, where Orfeo asks what will he do without Euridice is beautifully poignant.

The two sopranos, Krisztina Szabó as the ill-fated Euridice and Mireille Asselin as the enchanting Amore turn in paramount performances. We had to wait until the third act to hear Krisztina Szabó’s incredible voice, but in between her two deaths we hear her apprehension in returning to her former life with Orfeo in the aria Che fiero momento, that is simultaneously touching and amusing. Mireille Asselin is totally disarming as the God of Love. Her first act aria Gli sguardi trattieni captivates both Orfeo and the audience.

Conductor Leslie Dala keeps soloists, choir and dancers completely harmonized and the orchestra focused on a score that may not be in their regular repertoire. One doesn’t typically see choirs taking on so much performance responsibility in modern opera. However, in this production we see the choir collectively undertake the roles of mourners, Underworld Gatekeepers and Blessed Spirits.

The production qualities of Orfeo Ed Euridice will surely remind the audience just what they had missed last season. Itai Erdal lighting sublimely illuminates two different worlds. Amir Ofek’s economic mise en scène provides adequate space for dancers and choir. Vancouver-based designer Evan Clayton’s exquisite clothing was visually striking, particularly the dancer’s nymph costumes and Amore’s forming-fitting, floor length red dress.

It was certainly a wonderful experience to return to live opera. Perhaps Vancouver Opera might consider Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld for next season. The opera is, of course, a spoof on Orpheus and Eurydice.

© 2021 John Jane