For their brilliant and innovative production of Gluck’s Orpheus & Eurydice, Opera Queensland collaborate with the physical theatre company Circa. The idea is literally to embody the searing emotions of the protagonist, and to this end the director, Yaron Lifschitz, who is the artistic director of Circa, cleared the stage into a blank space, the more vividly to focus on the performers. Their performance was arresting and entirely free from any circus clichés, exploring without restraint the overwhelming feelings of desire, love, and loss which are the essence of Gluck’s treatment of the myth. Furthermore and most importantly, the stage action was never at variance with the musical tissue of the piece.
This was held together by Dane Lam, who drew beautiful sounds from the QSO. I particularly liked David Mitchell’s almost-18th-century bassoon sound in the ravishing tableau “Che puro ciel”. Natalie Christie Peluso sang the parts both of Amor and of Eurydice, and the more passionate Eurydice’s appeals to Orfeo to look at him became, the more it suited her pronounced vibrato (It is worth remembering that in the 18th century vibrato was an ornament rather than omnipresent). Countertenor Owen Willetts sustained the enormous role of Orfeo convincingly, even engaging with the Circa performers from time to time. The chorus was so well blessed with tenors that at times they overbalanced the rest of the chorus (what is better than too many tenors? Only tenors.), but Lifschitz integrates the chorus tactfully into the stage action.
Having said all this it is worth raising the question of too-much-ness. In opera, the action tells you the story, and the music, sung or played, depicts the emotions. If these emoticons are also depicted on the stage, as here quite brilliantly by Circa, it is hard to concentrate on the music as well – and indeed it becomes almost redundant.
I won’t leave this review without commenting on the surtitles. Instead of being projected as is usual above the stage they were displayed on the blank stage background itself. This was a great step forward.
I have rarely heard an audience so unanimously thrilled by something innovative in an opera performance. This is a wonderful experience of theatre. There is only one more performance-if you haven’t seen it, go on November 9th.
Opera Queensland in association with Circa
Orpheus & Eurydice
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Director Yaron Lifschitz
Venue: Playhouse QPAC
Dates: 24 October – 9 November 2019
Tickets: $64 – $124