Thursday, May 03, 2007

'Unable To Weep, He Wept At The Loss Of The Human Hope For The Resurrection Of The Dead' -- From Czeslaw Milosz "Orpheus And Eurydice"

... "Inspired by [Allen] Moyer’s amphitheater-like bleachers for the chorus, [Isaac] Mizrahi seized on the idea that the chorus, which observes Orfeo’s journey, represented history itself. Each of the 100 singers would be cast as a different historical figure: Mahatma Gandhi, Ben Franklin, Marie Curie, Liberace, and others. For the musician Orfeo, Mizrahi thought of a certain breed of pop singer. “I always saw Orpheus as a very lonely, melancholy fellow,” the costumer says. “I thought of him as being like Elvis and K.D. Lang, all those masculine figures you see, those lonely, heartbreaking singers.”

Perhaps the single driving inspiration for all the designers, however, was Czeslaw Milosz’s last published poem, “Orpheus and Eurydice,” which [Mark] Morris came across in The New Yorker and distributed to everyone working on the show. Milosz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, wrote the poem on the occasion of his wife’s death, two years before his own passing in 2004. The work sets the action in a non-specific modern setting, suggesting the timelessness of the Orpheus legend. The poem is suffused with sadness and yet remains hopeful, all of which affected Morris’s vision, as well as David Daniels’s interpretation of the title hero. “We’ve all had loss in our lives,” Daniels says. “The emotions of anger and sadness, even elation—it’s all in this character in a 90-minute opera.”

The theme of grief, indelibly tied to [Christoph Willibald] Gluck’s opera, also has special resonance with this particular production, as the great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson was originally scheduled to sing the role of Orfeo. She died in July 2006, and the performances will be dedicated to her memory. “She was a brilliant genius, a great artist,” Morris says of Lieberson, his friend and collaborator for nearly 25 years. An early rehearsal of Orfeo’s funeral scene proved emotional for Morris and his dancers. “We were working on it,” he says of the scene, “and everybody sort of choked up, because most of my dancers knew Lorraine. But what a fabulous life. What a great artist! The show is a celebration and a memorial in a certain way.”

The celebratory nature of this kind of tribute is in keeping with the opera’s happy ending, at odds with the Orpheus myth’s tragic conclusion, but a convention of the 1760s when Gluck wrote the piece—and something Morris has no problem accepting. “You have to have a little bit of imagination,” he says. “If you can’t imagine that Cupid makes you fall in love, you have no business existing. That’s how this opera works: it’s humane. It’s myth and magic and a whole bunch of wonderful things.

“Whenever I can,” Morris continues, “I like to throw an opera, as Mae West said once. I love chamber music and I love grand opera and I love all the stages in between. The headaches and the traumas increase enormously when you’re throwing an opera. But it’s fun, and it’s certainly exciting.”"

Matt Dobkin "Underlying Design [The Metroploitan Opera Stages Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice]" Playbill Magazine via Metropolitan Opera Website Accessed May 3, 2007


Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) returns to the Metropolitan Opera, under James Levine, after an absence of 35 years. Metropolitan Opera International Radio Broadcast on Saturday, May 5, at 1:30 PM EDT.


"He sang the brightness of morning and green rivers,
He sang of smoking water in the rose-colored daybreaks,
Of colors: cinnabar, carmine, burnt sienna, blue,
Of the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs,
Of feasting on a terrace above the tumult of a fishing port,
Of the tastes of wine, olive oil, almonds, mustard, salt.
Of the flight of the swallow, the falcon,
Of a dignified flock of pelicans above a bay,
Of the scene of an armful of lilacs in summer rain,
Of his having composed his words always against death
And of having made no rhyme in praise of nothingness.


Unable to weep, he wept at the loss
Of the human hope for the resurrection of the dead.
He was, now, like every other mortal.
His lyre was silent and in his dream he was defenceless.
He knew he must have faith and he could not have faith."

from Czeslaw Milosz "Orpheus and Eurydice", Krakow, Poland 2002


Art for Opera

Original works by some of the art world’s foremost figures will be on the auction block on Sunday, May 6 at a rare onstage sale at the Met. Some images contain material that might be considered inappropriate for children.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson -- to whose memory the Metropolitan Opera's production of Orfeo ed Euridice is dedicated.

Photo credit: (c) J. Henry Fair via All rights reserved. With thanks.


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