Sunday, 8 June 2014

Orpheus and Eurydice to celebrate Gluck's 300th anniversary at the Rose Theatre ****



Pamela Schermann, international opera and theatre director has teamed up with the young and diverse theatre company, Time Zone Theatre, to produce Christoph Willibald Gluck’s most popular and reformed opera, Orpheus and Eurydice at the Rose Theatre, which also celebrates Gluck’s 300th anniversary.

Schermann says, ‘…which other venue could have provided me with an Underworld like that…?’  And the audience couldn’t agree more. The Elizabethan theatre that has been undergoing construction since 1989 has proven theatrical zeal and potential. The cave-like pit, which is covered with water to avoid cracks from developing, is an ideal replica of a River Styx.

Gluck’s 18th century operatic vision of the Greek mythology was grounded on placing emphasis on the simplicity of both music and drama to accompany an uncomplicated plot and given how small the Rose theatre is, it delivered a close and personal show with singers (and choir ensemble) with captivating music with the use a humble quartet. Violinist (Julian Fish), flutist (Hannah Grayson,) harpist (Anne Denholm) and pianist (as well as conductor), Andrew Charity gave a performance that made eyes lock onto their instruments which is a rarity in traditional auditoriums where orchestras are hidden in the pit.   

Lyric Tenor, Robin Green who was Orpheus, had a chest infection this evening, yet given the circumstances did his best to enthral the audience. One can only imagine how fruitful he would sound on a better day. Gluck warned that for any singer casted as Orpheus, they faced the challenge of counteracting dullness that can easily settle with the opera’s harmonious music; by nature, the songs do not sound mournful. The expressive recitatives used in ‘My sad complaining’ and ‘I have lost my Eurydice’ were beautifully sang by Green, however there was no need for him to sing whilst putting clothes on at the end of Act 1 where his vocals were clearly struggling. 

The talented Latvian Soprano, Darja Scukina as Amore, is our cheerful cupid with fluffy black wings. Schermann implements a community choir to play the eight members of the Furies who at first say ‘No! No!’ to Orpheus' plea yet once sweetened, Green slowly unveils them as they sing, ‘we are subdued… let him into hell’ which in done in a rather ironically pleasing way considering that no one, in real life, would want to go to hell.

The dark excavated area of the Rose is taken fully advantage of by the singers, Green and Mimi Doulton (Eurydice) who although positioned far from the audience, and the quartet close by, gives vocal clarity and sharpness which resonate from both directions. Doulton has a robust voice and when confused of her husband’s actions sings unrelentlessly and provides a heart-wrenching feast. The soprano Olivia Doutney despite having a small choir part proved to have potential as well.

The stage ends with the trio song between the lovers and Amore whilst offering cake to the audience to portray a celebratory union. With clever co-ordination of the Rose theatre’s space, musical simplicity and gifted singers and musicians, Schermann’s direction has proven to execute Gluck’s love story so well that it whisks romantics off their feet.  

This production has ended but please click Here for more information on the Rose Theatre.