Orpheé | L’Amour | Eurydice. Opera, But Not As We Know It.
Once inside, we were enveloped in a world of virtual reality headsets, electric guitars and fender amps
In the UK, there is a tradition of dressing up to go to the opera. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, men can be seen wearing dinner jackets.
Tonight, was different. The location was Twente Airport, Hangar 11. Not a dinner jacket in sight.
Located in the middle of nowhere, down a dark, narrow and twisty lane, just finding Hangar 11 was an adventure in itself! But once inside, we were enveloped in a world of virtual reality headsets, electric guitars and fender amps, and we had a choice to make. Should we follow the grief, the betrayal, the anger and the depression of the male lead, Orpheé, into this world of electric guitars and virtual reality, or instead opt for a place of dance, and ballet, and nuance in the world of Eurydice performed so ably by the US-born dancer, Kalin Morrow?
This was opera, but not as we know it. And it was very good. It was truly wonderful.
The performance of Orpheé | L’Amour | Eurydice, a joint venture between Nederlandse Reisopera, Opera Zuid, Dutch National Opera & Ballet, M31 Foundation and WeMakeVR, is a rewriting of the original 1762 Gluck opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera which saw a shift towards a more noble simplicity.
Orpheé | L’Amour | Eurydice was originally conceived by the Robin Cook, the director, after a difficult break-up from his girlfriend; a break-up where his now ex managed to forge a new life, but instead leaving Robin completely swallowed in his own grief and unable to move forward. After turning to the music of Gluck in his hour of need, Robin found an affinity with the character of Orpheé and the version we see before us took shape.
In this new 2022 version, the Dutch-Polish composer Wolny “Ziggy” Zbigniew followed the tradition set by Gluck in 1774, when twelve years after the premiere, Gluck undertook a complete reworking of Orfeo ed Euridice in order to meet the tastes of his new Parisian audience.
The result is Orpheé | L’Amour | Eurydice, set for tenor, electric guitar and electronic music, with the addition of virtual reality, and graphics created by Avinash Changra. Truly an opera for the modern age, an age of the metaverse.
What is the bigger torture? Death or love?
To grieve is to love.
The opera opens with a series text messages which are projected onto a white curtain, messages which aim to highlight the inner turmoil felt by Orpheé at the loss of his true love, Eurydice. These messages herald the entrance of L’Amour, the embodiment of love, who teases the audience in what was a fabulously intense, seductive and captivating performance by Julia Akkermans.
And then the music, and it did not disappoint. The amazingly talented tenor, Lucas van Lierop, gave a mesmerizing performance in the opening aria, all the time accompanying himself on an electric guitar.
In a musical score heavily influenced by the music of Luciano Berio and the British rock band — Radiohead, (yes, you have read me correctly!) we see live electronic music, juxtaposed against the original Gluck melodies, and mingled with a modern interpretation of the accompanying harmonies. Lucas van Lierop was astounding. The depth of emotion portrayed, coupled with the sheer technicality required to master such a performance, was nothing short of amazing.
The tonality of the electronic music created by Wolny “Ziggy” Zbigniew is so far removed the original Gluck, that it must have been incredibly difficult for Lierop to maintain the tonality of the melodic line, but maintain it he did, most spectacularly. It almost felt at times as if two completely unrelated pieces were occurring at the same time.
Everything we love, we will lose. What is the point?
The music shows a deep respect for the original Gluck but puts the original renaissance score in a completely new context. The reliance on modes, as used in the original Gluck, and the shifting tonality between major and minor, creates new and unexpected turns, giving rise to a truly original score.
This is technically difficult music, but music which is so rewarding and challenging for an audience. You are completely enthralled in the beauty and complexity before you. For me, the music was all-consuming.
Any future production of this opera, in five, ten or even fifteen years, will be afforded the luxury of flexibility in creating a virtual reality world which reflects the technology of the time.
Our experience tonight was a moment in our time, in a world which craves new and ever more exciting experiences. This musical creation is scheduled to enter the recording studio at the end of the run. O | A | E, like the operas of so many other great composers before, will live on as a narrative of our age and indeed, a moment in time!
Orpheé | L’Amour | Eurydice is sung in French and English.
Amsterdam, Nationale Opera & Ballet, Boekmanzaal
5th — 7th March | https://www.operaballet.nl
Maastricht, Studio Malpertius
11th — 13th March | https://www.theateraanhetvrijthof.nl
Eindhoven, Microlab, Strijp S
18th — 20th March | https://www.parktheater.nl