A spectacular all French production
Deploying the most varied colours of love, hope, grief and distress, Varduhi Abrahamyan gave us a thoroughly passionate interpretation of the lead role in Gluck’s opera, arranged by Berlioz. In 1859 Berlioz arranged Gluck’s opera so that Orpheus could be sung by the great mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, with whom he used to work closely. He changed the formal design by dividing the work into four acts instead of three and placed the scenes in Hades and the Elysian Fields in separate acts. He also changed certain sections of Orpheus’ part, mainly in the recitatives, reworking most of Gluck’s orchestration.
Varduhi Abrahamyan’s Orphée displayed a solid, extended and powerful line all the way through his underworld love journey. Empowered to cross the doors of Hell by the beauty of the music he plays, Varduhi Abrahamyan / Orphée plunged the spectators in a blue haze of mystery, put to life in fifty shades of blue, through the very suggestive décor designed by Pierre Dequivre. However, the rather poor French pronunciation of the singer coaxed us to use the subtitles more than once, which was somehow annoying. Nevertheless, vocalizing with ease through the wide range of the vocal material, she highlighted the healing power of music as a superseding art. In quest of the Blue note? Begging Eurydice to listen to him… Which she did, although she used to suffer no more pain in the untroubled realm of the Dead. « Cet asile aimable et tranquille par le bonheur est habité. Nul objet ici n’enflamme l’âme; une douce ivresse laisse un calme heureux dans tous les sens. Et la sombre tristesse cesse dans ces lieux innocents. C’est le riant séjour de la félicité. » So close to Socrates’ peaceful vision of Death!
Melissa Petit’s role debut as Eurydice at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie was luminous and much acclaimed at the curtain fall. Born in Saint-Raphaël in the South of France, she began studying singing at the age of 14 at the Music School of Saint-Raphaёl. In 2009 she attended the University of Musicology in Nice and worked as a soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of Saint-Raphaёl. In the same year she won 2nd prize at the International Competition “Concorso Musica Sacra di Roma” and later 1st prize at the national singing competition at Béziers in France. Needless to say that her pronunciation was an impeccable and sheer joy to the ear. Her crystal-voiced performance seemed to call up the well-known unreachable star, the one described by Jacques Brel, the one that symbolises
unreachable love and desire. Called back to life by the art of her lover, Eurydice begged Orphée to talk to her. …Which he didn’t because the Gods had forbidden him to. So, he was caught in a double bind! This led to insuperable suffering, and of course, as he couldn’t help looking at her anyway, she was swallowed back to the tomb for the second time.
Delightful Belgian soprano, Julie Gebhart sang the third party: Amour, the allegory used as a third party in Berlioz opera. Love or Destiny? « Apprends la volonté des dieux: sur cette amante adorée garde-toi de porter un regard curieux, ou de toi pour jamais, tu la vois séparée. Tels sont de Jupiter les suprêmes décrets; rends toi digne de ses bienfaits. » Her fascinating scenic commitment was in tune with the perpetual movement of her singing.
According to Gluck, “Opera and theatre go together and must be united to the very point of fusion in order to express the quintessence of Drama”. This is the challenge Aurélien Bory has taken up in his breathtaking staging. First of all, he referred to an exquisitely bucolic painting “Orphée ramenant Eurydice des Enfers” by Camille Corot (1867 Huston Museum of Fine arts). It captures the very instant Orphée was about to turn to Eurydice… This eerie huge picture was then mirrored in a device consisting of a huge pivoting mirror, while various screens unveiled other mysterious realities. The doors of the underworld?
Anyway, the choir settled in the centre of the image, and so did the six dancers that kept weaving the story, through the opulent orchestral material energetically directed by masterful Guy Van Waas. The chorus (Pierre Iodice) ir and the dancers united to bodily support every stitch of the music in a constant dramatically moving tapestry. The stuff dreams are made of… Orphée and Eurydice, however, moved rather little, as if caught in the web of Destiny. The sound deployment was also smoothly accompanied by ground cloths being swayed, dragged, or flown around, taking away with them the powerless protagonists. Mesmerizing visual creativity merging dream and imagination accompanied perfect vocal excellence. All in all, utter modernity emerging from a immortal legendary story.
Dominique-Hélène Lemaire Photos