Orpheus And Eurydice
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

1. John Neumeier worked considerable stage magic with ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE, managing to transform Gluck’s 1762 opera into a 21st-century love story which resonated from start to finish. His L.A. Opera production, which recently closed at the Music Center, incorporated dance (by Joffrey Ballet), high-tech design, lighting, music and singing into its complex multi-disciplinary scheme. The result was quite dazzling.

2. Neumeier is American-born but has worked in Germany for much of his life, heading the Hamburg Ballet. An ex-dancer himself, he brought his expertise to ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE, not only directing and choreographing the opera but designing its sets, costumes and lights as well. The man is a theatrical one-man band.

3. Based on a Greek myth, ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE tells the story of a man who descends into Hades to reunite with his beloved and bring her back to the world of the living. Neumeier set this classic tale in the present, turning Orpheus (sung exquisitely by bell canto tenor Maxim Mironov) into the choreographer of a modern-dance company. Eurydice (the equally remarkable Lisette Oropesa)is his prima ballerina. In the first scene, they quarrel; she slaps him and flees. Cut to a wrecked car and her dead body. Orpheus goes mad with guilt but, thanks to the ministrations and counsel of his assistant, Amour (Liv Redpath), he recovers and agrees to risk his own life to save Eurydice’s. Down into hell he goes, where, after battling the Furies, he discovers his beloved, only to break the rules by gazing at her while leading her to safety (shades of Lot’s wife in Genesis). That mistake–-or weakness–-proves fatal; she dies a second time.

4. Gluck’s tragic love story is distinguished by its music, which has a “noble simplicity and serene greatness,” as one opera critic said. One moving melody follows another, giving its three singers (backed by the LA Opera Chorus) ample chance to show off their considerable vocal gifts. When you add forty-two Joffrey dancers and Neumeir’s stage wizardry to the mix, you will find yourself counting your blessings. James Conlon directed this stirring evening, which was a co-production of LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Staatsopera Hamburg.

Up next at LA Opera are Verdi’s RIGOLETTO, with a star-studded cast including Leo Nucci, Lisette Oropesa, Arturo Chacoin-Cruz, Craig Colclough and Morris Robinson, directed by Mark Lamos and conducted by Matthew Aucoin. May 12-June 3rd.

On May 20, Broadway legend Audra McDonald will be heard in concert, singing show tunes, classic songs from the movies, and original pieces written especially for her.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center.

On May 26, Rod Gilfrey will appear in a concert performance of CROSSING, Matthew Aucoin’s new opera based on Walt Whitman’s experiences tending to wounded soldiers during the American Civil War. Intricately scored for chamber orchestra, with beautifully detailed choruses, CROSSING stars Gilfrey as Whitman, and is conducted by the composer.

At The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

(Laopera.org or call 213-972-8001)