Half Naked Dead Dreadheads At The Opera

Orphée et Eurydice at The Royal Opera House ★★★★★

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 31 months ago
Half Naked Dead Dreadheads At The Opera Orphée et Eurydice at The Royal Opera House 5
Hofesh Shechter company dancers with English Baroque Soloists. Photo: ROH Photographer Bill Cooper.

The Royal Opera House’s season opener, Orphee et Eurydice, in the revised French version for the first time, is a musical extravaganza of otherworldly proportions.

Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez as the tormented Orphee makes an explosive debut alongside the sweet voiced Lucy Crowe (Eurydice) and flirtatious Amanda Forsythe (Amour). Conducted by John Eliot Gardiner (and co-directed by Hofesh Shechter and John Fulljames), this impressive production is also accompanied by the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir.

This opera classic celebrates the triumphant love of Orphee and Eurydice, following Eurydice’s untimely death. Orphee, in hopes of retrieving her, travels to the underworld at great risk of losing her forever. Despite its puzzling ending, it is clearly a story equally about grief as it is about the resurrective power of love.

Immediately apparent is importance placed on music and the orchestra. As a character in its own right, the orchestra sits very visibly at the centre of the action, splitting the stage. Like a breathing lung, it rises and falls in tandem with events at hand, literally elevating the musical intensity and drama (and allowing the passage of dancers and singers both below and behind them). Moreover, wind instrument solos and the use of harpsichord give as many goosebumps throughout as the talented singers and gorgeous libretto.

The creep factor is high in this production, with the ensembles of singers and dancers aweing in their respective talents and ghostly appearances. The choreography, which can only be described as beautifully coordinated chaos, is a blend of hip hop, Irish jig, Sevillanas (Flamenco) and even mosh pitting, all under the guise of modern dance. Half clothed dreadheads dancing frenetically is not typical at the Royal Opera House but is a pleasure to watch nonetheless. The minimal set also boasts a slated roof from which dots of light pour down dramatically during an underworld scene.

While the plot rips at one’s heart strings, other moments disgust, humorously; at one point Orphee sings to the burnt stump of a woman’s remains while the ensemble encircles her like vultures. Amour in her phantasmal voice (and shiny gold space age suit) breaks the seriousness with some humour and lighting used to accentuate the more dramatic plot points. Despite a dance heavy Act III that has the audience yearning for more singing, this impressive, multi-level operatic spectacular is simply to die for.

Orphee et Eurydice at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, runs until 3 October. Tickets are £9-£165. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Photo: ROH Photographer Bill Cooper.

Last Updated 21 September 2015