Salzburg greeted us with a thunderstorm and torrential rain which delayed the arrival of our babysitter by more than half an hour. However, we luckily managed to get to the theatre just minutes before the performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice began.
Orpheus has been a favourite theme of composers from the early beginnings of opera in the 17th century, Monteverdi's favola in musica Orfeo (1607) just being the prime example. Indeed, the story of Orpheus descending into Hades to free his wife Eurydice through the power of his singing seems to make for the ideal operatic plot.
Ever since its first performance in 1762, Gluck's opera has been regarded as a masterwork of simplicity and emotional depth. The piece has been performed at the Salzburg Festival since the 1930s with conductors like Bruno Walter, Josef Krips and Herbert von Karajan. Riccardo Muti's performance with the Vienna Philharmonic very much was in the vein of this grand, old-style symphonic approach. Originally, Gluck had written the part of Orfeo for a castrato. Today, it is sung by either a countertenor or an alto. Elizabeth Kulman, who had sung Orfeo for me in Paris in Pina Bausch's powerful and unforgettable choreography, gave a richly nuanced performance. Genia Kühmeier was a magnificent Euridice and Christiane Karg an outstanding Amore.
This upcoming spring the COC will present Gluck's opera with countertenor Lawrence Zazzo, Isabel Bayrakdarian and conductor Harry Bicket in Robert Carsen's great production. Prepare for a treat.
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