Feb 18, 2008

Pina Bausch's Orphée et Eurydice

So, this Saturday was supposed to be a day out for opera lovers, to enjoy all the backstage elements you don't normally see when attending a performance.
It turned out to be a day in for me, as the program Arte presented all day long was too good to be missed - even by a few hours. I even turned off my plans for the evening, as the live performance of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice was broadcast from the Garnier Opera House in Paris.

I had never seen an opera where acting singers were substituted with dancers, and this Pina Bausch choreography from 1975 was the perfect opportunity, since after all it is based on a music I love, Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice (although sung in German, which is so weird for this piece that I know so well).

First of all, the format of this "opéra dansé" (danced opera) was actually pretty good, since every last piece of recitative (the plague of Gluck's music) was ripped off. Obviously, dancing doesn't go too well with speaking parts, so the Gluck's score was shorter than the usual (a mere 90 minutes), more condensed, in other words easier to follow.

I am sceptical about the conducting of Thomas Hengelbrock at the helm of his Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble & Chor (but nobody can really find a place in my heart after Riccardo Muti reinvented the piece last year) as well as the overall performance of the musicians and choristers (not nearly enough nuances from both of them, plus I'm really fed up by now by the trend of playing on ancient relics).

Both Maria Riccarda Wesseling (Orphée), Julia Kleiter (Eurydice) and Sunhae Im (l'Amour) who were singing their respective parts on stage while their counterpart (the dancers interpreting Orphée - Yann Bridard -, Eurydice - Marie-Agnès Gillot - and l'Amour - Miteki Kudo -) were doing the choreography gave average performances.
The notes were where they are supposed to be (for the most part) but the voices were too weak and almost inaudible at times.

I know nothing about dance, so I couldn't judge anything from that angle, but I do have to say a few words about the choreography. Its modernity is undoubtable (even if the ballet was created in 1975), the costumes, lights and sets were really interesting but the choreography left me perplexed (to say the least).
The one thing I did love however was Cerberus, which was portrayed by three dancers (picture above) and was just perfectly though through. The rest was too full of wide gestures, crazy running and endless movement.

Overall, contrary to what you might think after these few lines, I did enjoy the show - very much (other substances may have helped).


The Opera Tattler said...

This was my very first opera, though it was performed in Italian, but also had dance involved (Mark Morris). I like Bausch, but I'm not sure I would like this particular work, though I've been piqued before since I love Gluck so much.

Extatic said...

Only one way to find out: download the broadcast and see for yourself.

Stéphane said...

Cet opéra dansé était vraiment une réussite et la chorégraphie de Pina Baush magnifique (car ce n'est pas toujours le cas, surtout ces derniers temps).

Extatic said...

Magnifique, je n'irai pas jusque là.
Mais réussie, ça oui.