Modern dance brings Gluck's Orphee to life in Geneva

Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:39am EST
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By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - A new production in Geneva of Christoph Willibald Gluck's 18th century opera Orphee, directed by Swedish choreographer Mats Ek, uses modern ballet to bring out its message of the redeeming power of music.

The production, based on a version first seen in Stockholm in 2004, draws on a modern staging to recreate the revolutionary impact of the opera, premiered in 1762.

It is based on the revision the German composer made for Paris in 1774, and with its timeless story of art and love overcoming death is the oldest opera to have stayed continuously in the repertoire.

"What's revolutionary for me in the whole piece is there's an amazing innocence in the music," said British conductor Jonathan Darlington.

"It's very pure, it says what it has to say incredibly directly -- for the time that was very original," he told WRS Swiss radio.

In Ek's staging modern dress and design and contemporary dance combine to recreate the revolutionary impact of Gluck's original masterpiece.

One shock is the portrayal of Orpheus -- the musician who goes down to the Underworld to reclaim his wife Eurydice from the dead -- as an old man, not a youth.

That reading also underlines the fact that an artist needs maturity to create, and represents Orpheus as a modern figure who has lost and mourned a wife.   Continued...