Back to CurtainUp Main Page
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Opera Review
Orfeo ed Euridice

by David Lipfert

Working within her idiom, Marta Clarke offers a distinctive statement about the emotional extremes in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. This new production at New York City Opera presents a coherent contemporary view of the timeless legend while accommodating a level of individual expression by the vocal soloists not usually found in modernist stagings. This Orfeo might earn more critical praise as part of Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave offerings, where combinations of opera, dance and striking production values are more commonplace. Its appearance at City Opera is a reminder how few of the fashionably fresh presentations at Lincoln Center really have the personal depth that Ms. Clarke has infused here.

Many performing traditions are intact: dancers onstage stand in for the chorus, which sings from the pit, and the full sequence of concluding ballet music is used. Since there are The opera which lasts just 90 minutes is performed without a break after Orfeo's entrance to Hades because there are no time-consuming costume changes.

Euridice's corpse is mourned by husband Orfeo and dancers slowly wandering on a boulder-filled, raked stage. Echoing Orfeo's grief, the female dancers hurl themselves against their male partners, who momentarily suspend them motionless in positions expressing anguished resignation. While all are silently consumed at her loss, the Euridice's spirit (actually the singer Amy Burton brilliantly lit by a single spot) departs.

Amor offers Orfeo a way to regain his beloved again: he must guide her from the netherworld without so much as a single glance at her or explanation. With exquisite pleading Orfeo bravely confronts the spirits of Hades, writhing souls being bashed against the rocks in Ms. Clarke's interpretation. Passing into the Elysian Fields, he finds the blessed spirits clothed in nothing but innocence and purity gently cavorting in slow motion in Ms. Clarke's most absorbing images. Next a fully- clothed Euridice appears, and Orfeo brings her as far as a passageway between towering cliffs. In the musical highlight of the evening, she vehemently accuses an apparently unfeeling Orfeo of not loving her, a claim he can only deny. Ultimately, Amor's conditions ultimately prove too exacting for him and as. he turns to Euridice, she expires once again. Orfeo's familiar aria "Che farņ senz'Euridice" (What will I do without Euridice? ) is answered once again by Amor, who restores her to life.

The soloists wax philosophical about love while the dancers frolic about like boisterous kids. A skeleton is tossed about in turn by three dancers with as many different ways of manipulating the symbolic prop.

Orfeo is interpreted by Artur Stefanowicz, who sings well within the limitations of the countertenor technique and wisely chooses to avoid the final higher alternative for the conclusion to his principal aria. His acting combines the customary avant-garde hands-in-the-pockets with occasional patches of traditional clutch-and-lurch, directorially unsatisfactory for the opera's protagonist. As Euridice, Amy Burton pushes her sweet voice to its dramatic limit during her impassioned protestations to her seemingly heartless spouse. As Amor, Robin Blitch Wiper nimbly climbs among the rocks to announce the gods' decrees to Orfeo. Noteworthy among the dancers is the unique Eun Me Ahn.

Without the aid of the inherently musical phrasing by the City Opera chorus (under Gary Thor Wedow's direction), conductor Derrick Inouye settles for an uninspired but always pleasant alternation of tempi. The orchestra plays up to its current high standard, with the oboe and string solos particularly noteworthy.

As backgrounds to the boulder-strewn playing area, John Conklin uses images that progress from a barren landscape resembling central Anatolia to a rock- hewn facade that might have come from Petra (of Indiana Jones fame) in Jordan. Jane Greenwood (editor's note: well known to theater goers) puts all the players in thin double-breasted black coats during the gloomy underworld scenes with effective side lighting by Stephen Strawbridge. For the finale, coats are shed in favor of loose beige dresses and short black boots for the women and light shirts and pants for the men.

ORFEO ED EURIDICE Music by Christoph Willibald Gluck
Libretto by Ranieri De' Calzabigi
Vienna version (1762) edited by Anna Amalie Albert and Ludwig Finscher Orfeo: Artur Stefanowicz
Euridice: Amy Burton
Amor: Robin Blitch Wiper
Dancers: Eun Me Ahn, Pascal Benichou, Felix Blaska, Aleta Hayes, Emmanuele Phuon, Alexandre Proia, Keith Sabado, Paola Styron, Shen Wei, Julia Wilkins Conductor: Derrick Inouye
Director: Martha Clarke
Set: John Conklin
Costumes: Jane Greenwood
Lighting: Stephen Strawbridge
Supertitles: Cori Ellison
Asst. Costume Designer: Michael Zecker
Chorus Master: Gary Throe Widow
New York City Opera, Lincoln Center NYC (212) 870-5570
Reviewed 10/13/98
In repertory through 10/23/98

Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from

Back to CurtainUp Main Page

© Elyse Sommer, October 1998