Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lots of Gluck

My mood has been listless of late. I had diagnosed the cause as insufficient sleep or sluggish bowels. But after attending yesterday's HD movie showing of the Metropolitan Opera production of Christoph Willibald von Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, I saw my true problem: I have been lacking a sense of of late-baroque Viennese nobility.

My spirit is flat and tepid compared to that of Orfeo, who in just 90 minutes anguishes over his lost wife, defies the underworld, quiets the Furies with his sweet laments, triumphs in rescuing his wife from the Elysian Fields, grows suicidal with remorse at losing her again, and then finds peace when Amor, the god of love, rigs up a happy ending to close the play. My emotional range is a mere speed bump compared to the colossal Six Flags roller-coaster of emotions felt by Orfeo.

The part of Orfeo was played by the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, the Met being fresh out of castrati. Orfeo's wife Euridice was played by a young soprano Danielle de Niese, who did a good job of being dead, then alive, then dead again, and at last alive again, just in time to take a bow at the end of the play. The third main character was Amor, the god of love, quirkily played by Heidi Grant Murphy, who descends upon wires as an angel wearing a pink shirt, tan slacks, and angel's wings too small to get a pelican airborne, much less a plump middle-aged woman.

Dancers from the Metropolitan Ballet company are variously used as the mourners (swaying and moping around the stage) in Act 1 , as the Furies (running about and jerking their arms) and the dead Elysian heroes (making stately hops in a great circle) in Act 2, and as nymphs and shepherds (doing a sort of sideways jitterbug) at the end of Act 3. It is a fine thing to have dancers in an opera. Watching them, I regretted not taking up ballet myself. But, alas, now I am too old (and have always been too awkward and too stiff and too lazy).

Singers in the chorus were perched in a pair of triple-decker bleachers and represented the Illustrious Dead observing Orfeo's plight. The Illustrious Dead were costumed as a wild assortment of historical figures. I picked out Abraham Lincoln, Truman Capote, Princess Di, Henry the Eighth, and Jimi Hendrix.

In my view, any opera that combines beautiful baroque music, dancers, a sense of Viennese nobility, and Jimi Hendrix has to be a winner!