Gluck "Orphée et Eurydice" at the Royal Opera House, reviewed in The Financial Times

"But the real stars of the show, rightly placed at its heart, are Gardiner, his orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir"

16 September 2015

Orphée et Eurydice, Royal Opera House, London — review

Schedule Gluck’s
Orphée et Eurydice in its less familiar Paris version of 1774. Bring in John Eliot Gardiner and his own period-instrument orchestra to look after the music and the Hofesh Shechter Company for the dance. Then put the orchestra on stage and sell standing places in the pit to members of the audience.

If the Royal Opera wants to try something experimental, the start of the season is the most convenient time to do it. This first ever outing for the 1774 Orphée et Eurydice at the Royal Opera House may not have turned out as radical as it promised, but it is imaginative and well worth seeing.

What we get is a sort of glorified concert performance. Gardiner and his English Baroque Soloists take pride of place in the centre of the stage on a moveable platform that levitates up to the ceiling and down into the floor. In fact, they come closer to making a journey to heaven and hell than Orpheus, who spends most of the evening rooted to his chair.

In this joint production by Hofesh Shechter and John Fulljames, the stage opens right out to reveal the unending expanse of the Elysian Fields, beautifully lit with streams of light from above. As expected, the Hofesh Shechter dancers release a strong charge of energy from Gluck’s dance music, but there was an opportunity here to root the dance more deeply into the drama that was not taken.

The Paris version of the opera calls for a star tenor who can reach some very high notes. Juan Diego Flórez is certainly that. His bright, clean tenor might be better suited to the Italian original, and then we might have understood more of what he was singing, but for a voice of class and high Cs by the armful, Flórez is your man.

Lucy Crowe and Amanda Forsythe make well-matched sopranos as Eurydice and Amour. But the real stars of the show, rightly placed at its heart, are Gardiner, his orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir. Their performances of Orphée et Eurydice at the Châtelet in Paris in 1999 were a high watermark, but Gardiner goes further now, taking risks that push his musicians and Gluck to the limits of the possible.

Read on The Financial Times website