A Review of Orfeo ed Euridice

By Max Carnella

Watching Orfeo ed Euridice was a unique experience that will not soon be forgotten.  The singing was excellent, and the incident was an interesting one, however I do not understand why people would venture out and see more than one of these per year, but maybe I will once I have a greater appreciation for culture and am living out my twilight years in a condominium in Clearwater, Florida. 

The experience began before I even entered the theater: our whole Theater class ventured to Burrito Boyz wearing suits for some pre-opera food.  The Burritos, despite being quite delicious, were a peril to our attire.  Fortunately, we survived our meal without incident.

The Class received some subtle and obvious glances while walking towards the Four Seasons Center for Performing Arts.  Once we arrived, the difference in age between the median operagoer and ourselves was around 50 years.  This was an odd dynamic, and increased the feeling of displacement that was present throughout the opera experience.

While traveling up many flights of stairs, I received more comments on my attire.  One man remarked that it was good we were suiting up, as it contrasted with the normal attire of teenage boys attending the opera.  Our breaking of stereotypes and the complimentary tone that the fellow operagoer’s adopted left me feeling positive before the show had even begun.

Once we reached our seats, I felt a bit of vertigo and realized that from our altitude, I would be unable to see anything.  However, these fears were put to rest after the play began.  Though I could not see the facial expressions of the actors, they utilized physical acting well: a delicate balance between exaggerating physical motions so that audience members far out can see, and also making gestures and facial expressions realistic for those closer up.

The play itself was confusing.   Frankly, I was disappointed with the ending. Gluck took the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice and turned it into a romance.  This ending of Gluck’s opera takes away from the impact of the original myth, and removes the original moral, changing it from the importance of obedience to the strength of love.  I personally preferred the tragedy of the Greek ending.

The acting of this performance – in particular, the pure vocal power of the actors – was incredible:  they projected out to the fifth ring clearly while crawling on the ground or even lying face first in the cork that made up the stage.  This amount of core strength and vocal gusto is astounding.  Singers lay on their backs, squirmed, and were masked by the bodies of others, yet their voices reached the cheap seats.

The music of the opera reminded me of the beauty of classical music: the perfect unison of the orchestra and the voices was incredible to watch.  As well, the intertwining of the singers, both chorus and lead, was a great pleasure.  I was impressed with the vocal range of the singers, and the emotional depth they put into their songs.  It was a form of theatrical communication unlike any other that I had experienced before.  The actors communicated purely through the tone and feeling behind the music, as the vast majority of the audience did not understand the words being said.

The opera was an interesting experience, and one that will not be forgotten.  I look forward to returning to the venue, and impressing more people with my wardrobe.  However, even more than that, the opera was a tradition that was entirely new to me.  Orfeo ed Euridice opened the door to new practices and broadened my horizons; I look forward to broadening them even more.