The creative team behind last years sell out Pagliacci bring us Orpheus, an evocative tale of love and loss. The Cork Operatic Society, formed in 2009 collaborate once more with the Everyman to embark on a odyssey through the enigmatic mind of Orpheus, the illustrious Greek poet and musician.
The talented cast is led by director John O’Brien who focuses on the crux of Orpheus’ strife, grief, in this sharp resume of the prophet’s prolific life. Based on Bavarian composer Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), O’Brien’s production takes on Gluck’s classical formula from a fresh and innovative angle.
The myth of Orpheus follows the great sorcerer to the underworld and sees him return, a feat accomplished by few. In the opening scene, incense sanctimoniously curdles from the stage as Orpheus buries his beloved wife Eurydice. Defeated by grief, hell inhabits Orpheus’ heart and his destitute sobs conjure Amore (Majella Cullagh), the goddess of love who offers Orpheus a means to save and reclaim his love from Hades clutch. Amore’s words propel Orpheus to enter the underworld where he manipulates the imps and demons with his voice and implores them to cast pity upon him.
Trinidadian native, Ronald Samm braves the leading role and executes Orpheus’ pain with resounding emotional control. Eurydice is released to Orpheus on the condition that he evade her gaze until they return to the earthly world. O’Brien’s production presents Eurydice as a celestial ballerina; her virtuous persona is beautifully orchestrated by dancer Tara Brandel who performs with a flaring passion. Her angelic physicality is memorizing, her movements captivating as she twists and twirls out of the underworld.
As Orpheus emerges from the underworld he turns to Eurydice to solidify his love for her but Eurydice is two steps behind her husband. Still encompassed by Hades she is struck down by Orpheus’ look of love and now lost to him forever. The production reaches its crescendo as Orpheus advances toward the edge of the stage and we see the crimson curtain fall behind him, separating him entirely from the life he once knew.
Performed completely in Italian save Eurydice’s pivotal cry ‘If you love me, look at me’, English subtitles were provided on screens at both corners of the stage, however they were quite difficult to see and proved fruitless to the overall production with a number of technical issues. Nonetheless, Lisa Zagone creates a stunning backdrop to this dazzling production, cornicing the stage with organ piping and layering the cast in Grecian linens while Michael Hurley’s lighting design augments the emotion which encapsulates this piece. The cast move as a natural ensemble and engage with the audience throughout although there were a number of unrelenting silences and rigid transitions which could be resolved on a larger stage.
Opera lovers, get your tickets now!