Orpheus in der Unterwelt

  • Operetta
  • By Jacques Offenbach
  • Production: Boris Grappe
  • Papageno Musiktheater, Frankfurt
  • 18 and 25 February and 11 March 2017
  • Review by Becca Kaplan
  • 18 February 2017
Orpheus in der Unterwelt
3.0Reviewer's Rating

The tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice gets a little twisted in Orpheus in der Unterwelt. And by twisted I mean everyone seems surprisingly happy that Orpheus is tricked into leaving Eurydice in the Underworld. Orpheus in der Unterwelt has a nice underlying condemnation of the morality and public opinion that keeps people in miserable situations, but overall is a parodic satire of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. For those unfamiliar with the myth of the famed Greek musician, Orpheus can make the gods weep for the beauty of his playing. When his wife dies, he follows her to the Underworld in the hopes to rescue her. Yet when he has the chance to do so, he mistakenly turns to look at her before they finish their climb, thus breaking the only rule of the agreement, losing her forever. This operetta more or less follows that same line except in this case, Orpheus and Eurydice are not quite a happily married couple, him being a vain violin teacher having an affair with a student named Chloe and Eurydice having an affair with a shepherd, in this rendition a lederhosen-wearing model. When her lover turns out to in fact be Pluto, god of the Underworld, in disguise, Eurydice is brought to Hades. Orpheus, initially rejoicing at his wife’s death, only agrees to rescue Eurydice under the manipulation and force of Public Opinion. With an audience before a few bored gods and goddesses in Olympus, including the hypocritically lecherous Jupiter, Orpheus and Public Opinion convince the gods to go to the Underworld to rescue Eurydice from Pluto. Jupiter leads the charge, but never intends to return the beautiful woman to her earth-bound husband.

Though supposedly a searing satire, Papageno’s Orpheus in der Unterwelt, set alternatively in a modern, show business Germany and an alienesque Olympus is more fluffy comedy then biting farce. Nonetheless, the operetta is still enjoyable as a vehicle for Carnival like costumes and beautiful music. With some exceptions for breathing and audibility, the vocals are gorgeous and the music lively, quite fitting for the tale of the favored musician. Where this production falls flat is the inconsistency in farcical acting and jokes. Some land, such as Hans Styx’s life story via slideshow and Jupiter’s buzzing seduction, yet often the jokes fall flat. Eurydice’s voice champions, but her exaggerated doe-like expressions force her into a caricature in which it is unclear whether she is an object moved between three men or if she has any particular desire for herself. Standout performances include our sassy, tough as nails yet giddy manipulator, Public Opinion, Pluto’s hilariously bizarre gothic S&M getup and Jupiter’s seduction as a fly. While not every joke hits its mark and the staging is a mix of creative and amateurish tricks, Orpheus in der Unterwelt does not beleaguer any point and quickly moves on to the next song, next movement, next joke, thus making for a quick-paced, colorful, and ultimately enjoyable interpretation of Offenbach’s operetta.

 

Orpheus in der Unterwelt parodiert den tragischen Mythos von Orpheus und Eurydike. Das unglücklich verheiratete Ehepaar ist aufgrund der schädigenden öffentlichen Meinung nicht in der Lage, ihre Ehe für gescheitert zu erklären obwohl beide zwischenzeitlich neue Liebhaber gefunden haben. Als sich herausstellt, dass Eurydikes Liebhaber der Gott der Unterwelt, Pluto, ist, bringt dieser sie von der Erde in die Unterwelt. Orpheus’ Freude daran weicht sehr schnell, als er durch die öffentliche Meinung dazu gezwungen wird, Jupiter um Hilfe für die Befreiung seiner Frau zu bitten. Jupiter und seine gelangweilten Götter einigen sich daraufhin in die Unterwelt zu reisen, um Eurydike zu finden, wobei Jupiter einen etwas anderen Plan im Auge hat: er gedenkt Eurydike auf diese Weise an sich zu reißen.

About The Author

Facilitator & Reviewer (Germany)

Becca Kaplan is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her MA in Film Studies from King’s College London. She began reviewing with Plays To See in the fall of 2013 when she moved to London to earn her Masters. Currently, Becca lives in Germany, exploring another international side of theater criticism.

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