Thursday, 5th May 2011
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Orpheus the lover, Orpheus the musician – few other ancient myths have
been interpreted so often on the operatic stage as that of the miracleworking
singer. His music has a supernatural effect; animals, trees, rivers
all heed his song. He even charms the gods of death and makes them
feel sympathy with him as a grieving lover. But despite this he is not
strong enough to resist the all too human temptation to turn around
and look back at his beloved. It was precisely this dichotomy – the
god-like musician and the weak man – that interested John Neumeier.
Consequently, Neumeier places the spotlight of his major narrative ballet
on the development of Orpheus as an artist. He succeeds in giving
Orpheus’s experience relevance to the present day without detracting
from the story’s mythical dimension:
“My story of Orpheus plays in the here and now. Apollo is his father, Calliope
his mother. But Orpheus himself is a man, an artist, a fiddler – a dancer. His
vocation lies in the beauty of his art. His chance encounter with Eurydice
changes his life. This chance hampers Orpheus’s vocation, making it deeper
and more existential. He loses his one great love. Love leads him to a place
from which no living person has ever returned. He wants to get Eurydice back.
But he fails, because he is a man.” (John Neumeier)
Neumeier has chosen an astonishing range of music: Igor Stravinsky’s
remarkable Apollon Musagète is given a new interpretation by the choreography
that marks Orpheus’s development as a youth, while later
on excerpts of the composer’s Orpheus are used. In contrast to this, the
contemporary sound of Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge from Orpheus
the Lowdown is heard while he mourns the loss of Eurydice. A discovery
lends the musical cosmos a particularly strong identity and manifestness:
two pieces from Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s Mystery Sonatas consistently
create the impression in the underworld scenes that time is
standing still. Using these unusual and unexpected musical combinations
Neumeier has again succeeded in creating a choreography and stage
production of compelling aesthetic clarity.