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Orfeo ed Euridice

Longborough Opera Festival Theatre, Longborough

The season at Longborough, as always, ended with a production devoted to young, up-and-coming performers both on stage and in the orchestra pit, an initiative to give a springboard to their careers. The choice of opera this year was Gluck’s seminal and extremely influential Orfeo ed Euridice. The excellent design by Richard Studer was handsome, simple and completely in keeping with the classical approach of the opera, with striking lighting designed by Dan Saggars as well. It was another success for the company, calmly yet passionately performed under the fine direction of Maria Jagusz and with a superbs central performance as Orfeo movingly sung and acted by mezzo Hanna-Liisa Kirchin who clearly has a stellar career ahead of her. Her openings cries of “Euridice” were so beautifully sung and controlled that you knew immediately you were in the presence of a completely reliable talent both vocally and dramatically. Orfeo is a central and demanding role and Kirchin never flagged. The aria “Addio, Addio, o miei sospiri” (“Farewell, Farewell, O My Sighs”) was moved to the end of the first half of the opera, placed when Orfeo has harrowed hell, a suitable transfer of a powerful aria to a point that ends the first half with some vocal fireworks before the audience gets a break of ninety minutes for the picnic, Glyndebourne style. The aria, which was disputed for a long time as being an interpolation but which George Solti and Marilyn Horne, among others, helped prove was actually by Gluck, was delivered with such panache and dramatic exuberance that the spectators were buzzing with excitement about Kirchin’s vocal qualities as they left the auditorium. They were also talking about the memorable visual effect of the chorus turning itself into the boat that transports Orfeo across the River Styx and the representation of Charon by Ryan Full.

Kirchin was as strong in the second half and delivered the famous “Che farò senza Euridice?” (“What will I do without Euridice?”) with moving pathos and total musical control. It was a wonderful moment. Nazan Fikret as Euridice and He Wu as Amore were also very fine. Fikret’s voice positively gleamed at times but I missed her aria “Quest’asilo ameno e grateo”(“This pleasant and agreeable refuge”) that usually opens the scene in the Elysian Fields. Why was it missed out? Was it just a variant edition that they were using? Gluck revised the opera a lot and there are several versions, including one for a tenor Orfeo so there is probably a precedent. He Wu has an ideal physical and vocal presence as a soubrette Amore and one can imagine her easily in roles such as Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera or even Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos. She was perky and delightful in all her appearances and utterly charming.

The chorus – first playing the grieving friends of Orfeo and Euridice, then being the furies, then being the Happy Shades in the Elysian Fields, then as friends again – deserves praise for its sonorous musical performance as well as for its acting and movement; as do Jordan Scrase and Emily Smith for their special dances. Praise must also be given for the conducting of Jeremy Silver, once again leading this interesting and successful initiative to help launch young singers on their professional way. All the elements for this opera came together in a simple, compelling and very moving way.

This has been a good season as Longborough with only Fidelio as a production misfire and with two top class productions in Tristan und Isolde and The Magic Flute. It ends with a fine Orfeo ed Euridice. Also note that Thomas Gurthrie who directed The Magic Flute is returning next year for Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, which I suspect will therefore be another winner.

Longborough itself is a lovely place to experience Country House Opera, to have a picnic in attractive grounds involving opera-going and I feel that it is getting stronger for its productions year by year.


This production of Orfeo ed Euridice takes place for a final performance on 4 August 2017 at King’s College London’s Greenwood Theatre, located at 55 Weston Street, London, SE1 3RA.

  • Opera
  • Music: Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • Libretto: Ranieri de’ Calzabigi (Based on the poetic interpretation of the legend by Virgil and Ovid)
  • Director: Maria Jagusz
  • Cast Includes: Hanna-Liisa Kirchin, Nazan Fikret, He Wu, Jordan Scrase, Emily Smith
  • Longborough Opera Festival Theatre, Longborough
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 3 August 2017

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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