orfeo ed euridice in toronto

Lawrence Zazzo as Orfeo. (c) Michael Cooper

less than 24hr after Ariadne auf Naxos, DtO and I were back again for Orfeo ed Euridice courtesy of the generous Canadian Opera Company.  We got the same seats as the night before.  It was great because I got superb view and more importantly superb audio from the orchestra almost directly in front of me.  However, I think one needs to attend the same opera from different locations in the concert halls to get a feeling for the sound and view qualities of the house.   For the most part, i’d say i know the music and the flow well enough to afford skip looking WAY up for the sur-titles.  was quite surprised to read just minutes before hand that it ran only 90-min without any intermission!  that’s the length an extract from an opera i normally show friends.

The music started, i LOVE love the sound of the orchestra, and realllly love the conducting.  Let’s just say it’s everything I was wishing for in I capuleti last month!  crisp, sharp, and ooh, the soft soft sound of the violin, the plucking, really gives one the impression of mice tip-toeing while stealing the cheese :-).  This is why i would have liked a seat on the side of first/2nd/even 3rd balcony to get a better view of the orchestra.  I had already resigned late last year to hearing a countertenor (CT) as Orfeo.  That brings my CT count to 4 this year. Poor DtO who might have wished to be elsewhere.  How else would you explain she didn’t notice the CT stripping off his jacket (more on this later**)? Anyhow, his opening “Euridice” got me cringing. But aside from that and several minor places where we agreed he squealed a bit, I like his voice and acting. Put it down as another CT I manage to stand hearing live (in addition to Anthony Ross Constanzo). In his duet with Euridice (sung by Isabel Bayrakdarian), their voices meshed very well. His “Che faro senza Euridice” was quite moving. It’s sung at relative fast tempo, which I actually quite like. As is the case with sadness, sometimes it doesn’t have to be slow. His sounds nức nở (sometimes english fails me, will find translation later, something along the line of crying to the point of hiccuping) which is entirely appropriate given the situation: Orfeo is mourning the loss of Euridice (here’s a fast “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” for comparison).

I thought I knew this opera pretty well, but somehow the first part of the duet caught me off-guard, as if I had never heard it before! So, I did some digging of my own so we can compare the duet in both French and Italian (don’t worry, both excerpts are with eye-pleasing white shirts):

French: (first part is how I would have liked to hear the opening “Eurydice”. duet at 2.55)

Italian (duet starts at 0.55; the poor mezzo got quite a beating in this production, make sure you make it to minute 2. I really recommend watching the entire clip. I also like the acting a lot, so much that you’ll get another 10min clip at the end of this post):

Is it my ears? or the duets are to different music? there’s another significant difference between the two versions: no “Amour, viens rendre à mon âme” !! I was so waiting for that, as it should be right after the music to “J’accepte votre loi!”. And all the while, the CT was stripping off his jacket to reveal his white shirt. Why do I care? Take a look at this wonderfully eye-pleasing picture:

White shirt Ambur Braid demonstrating how to swagger in a suit. (c) Michael Cooper

I mean, the white shirt has the swagger! she paraded across the stage, back leaning, hands gesturing, legs apart, my my my, yours truly was panting a bit.. So, she’s somewhat shadowing Orfeo in this production, in all his moves. So why on earth didn’t she take off that jacket when he did?? I was miffed the whole 5 minutes while they changed the set. MIFFED you hear, complaining nonstop to a confused** DtO.

the nice hole on stage separating earthly things from hell. Lawrence Zazzo as Orfeo, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Euridice. (c) Michael Cooper

Anyhow, curtain came up again and we have the “hell scene”. Overall, I reallly like the chorus. If my “I capuleti” chorus could be like this, I would have been sooo happy last month. They’re sharp, clear, vicious at times as they should be to scare off the CT. Isabel Bayrakdarian’s voice is quite nice. We both agreed her best sound came when she was stuck in this hole with just her head sticking out right at our eye level. We debate whether it’s the sound projection or whether she just didn’t need to care how she looked in the hole, therefore concentrating more on her very nice singing. I actually had heard several clips on YT from her before, starting with her duet with Vivica Genaux as Cleopatra and Marc’ Antonio in Hasse’ opera of the same name. Here, she doesn’t get as much time except the non-stop complaining about being ignored by the CT.

When Amore emerged the second time, the wig she has on, in combo with her beautiful yet skinny face, gave me the impression she was really a young man beaufitully dressed in drag 🙂 . Here, have a look yourself:

Beautiful Amore in drag in thadieu's eyes. Lawrence Zazzo as Orfeo, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Euridice, Ambur Braid as Amore. (c) Michael Cooper

Finally, everyone came back alive and happy. I don’t know which town Orfeo lived it but it was clearly a straight town. I counted 23 couples (including Orfeo&Euridice), all with your basic 1-man-1-woman structure. Given that the queer population is ~5%, one would think we have at least 1 bending couple no? Especially when they’ve already deprived us (me) a mezzo in the entire production!  Although I guess Amore could qualify for that. May be they meant to show that, my bad then that i missed ;-).

So, all in all, a very nice experience. the lighting, directing, production, conducting, acting, singing, all nicely done in this straight production. If I were living in Toronto, I might have come for 2nd or 3rd shows, mainly because of the beautiful music and the view of that nice young Amore in suit. So, I’d wrap it up by thanking Canadian Opera Company for accomodating me in both productions (and DtO for putting up with my constant complaints about that non-white-shirt episode). As mentioned above, i quite like the production with the two young singers in the Italian version above, so you get another link to “Che faro senza Euridice” here to wrap up the nice music for the night.

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About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

4 Responses to orfeo ed euridice in toronto

  1. Eyesometric says:

    It’s no good Dr.T…. You are going to have to remove the “writing-challenged” bit from the “opera addict” 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts once more.

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  2. We agreed that Ambur Braid in a dress looked like a case of dragging. Excellent suit-wearing skills.

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  3. Smorg says:

    Hiya! The music is indeed a little different in the different versions of this opera… There are 4 versions of this opera around, I think. The original Italian version premiered in Vienna in 1762 (with alto castrato Orfeo), the French version premiered in Paris in 1774 (with tenor Orphée, ’cause the French didn’t like castrati. Here Gluck added solo arias, including the act I ending bravura ‘L’espoir renaît dans mon âme’), and more ballet music.

    Then Berlioz came along and made another French version in 1859 for Pauline Viardot (the Munich DVD version) with a bit of change and re-orchestration (with the help of Saint-Saëns), transposing Orphée to contralto range and turning his bravura aria into ‘Amour, viens rendre à mon âme’ – complete with added ending cadenza that now bears Viardot’s name. The Berlioz version was then translated into Italian in 1889 (where the bravura aria became ‘Addio, o miei sospiri’ ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07TnVVFV2aY )).

    So I guess in this performance they used the Gluck original Italian version… I’m glad they at least gave ya’ an Amore in drag in the first act! 😉 Thanks for sharing (and especially the photos, too!)!

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