News

Arizona Opera Performs Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” for the First Time in its History

The sublime 18th-century opera features distinguished soloists, expert direction and elegant sets and costumes from New York’s Glimmerglass Opera

Performances are April 13–15 in Phoenix, April 21 & 22 in Tucson

Phoenix, AZ (March 13, 2012) — After the spectacular success of Aida, Arizona Opera is concluding its record-selling 2011–12 season with a work it’s never before presented in its 41-year history—Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1762 masterpiece Orfeo ed Euridice. Based on the classic myth of a Greek hero’s descent into the underworld to rescue his true love, this Italian opera features a groundbreaking score and sumptuous sets inspired by ancient Grecian temples.

“This particular work holds such an important place in the history of opera,” said Arizona Opera General Director Scott Altman. “On this special occasion of an Arizona Opera premiere, we feel very fortunate to have assembled a world-class cast, design and production team.”

Mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner and soprano Christine Brandes perform, respectively, the title roles of the mythological lovers Orfeo and Euridice. A frequent performer at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Goeldner recently performed opposite Anna Netrebko in the Metropolitan Opera’sAnna Bolena. In February, Ms. Goeldner debuted at London’s Covent Garden, singing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and recently she performed at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw as the Page in Salome. The New York Times has praised her voice as “excitingly radiant and agile” and Newsday applauded her “liquid plangent tones…crystal-clear diction and contained, but simmering, intensity.” This is Ms. Goeldner’s Arizona Opera debut.

Also making her Arizona Opera debut, Brandes has been lauded for her committed artistry to repertoire ranging from Handel operas to newly composed works such as William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge. She enjoys an active career in North America and abroad, performing at many of the world’s most distinguished festivals and concert series in programs spanning from recitals and chamber music to oratorio and opera. In a recent review of Brandes onstage, Opera News remarked how “every word in both aria and recitative [is] infused with meaning, musical intelligence and vocal beauty.”

The cast also includes soprano and Marion Roose Pullin Resident Artist Rebecca Sjöwall as the Goddess of Love Amore. In addition, a sizable chorus variously depicts nymphs, demons, Furies, spirits and heroes in Gluck’s operatic version, which also includes ballet.

With Orfeo ed Euridice, the German-born Gluck (1714–1787) helped restore a natural simplicity and dramatic pacing to Italian opera, which during the early 18th century had fallen victim to stringent formula and excessively elaborate vocal writing. “I have striven,” Gluck wrote, “to restrict music to its true office of serving poetry by means of expression and by following the situations of the story, without interrupting the action or stultifying it with a useful superfluity of ornaments.” Unlike most Baroque operas, inOrfeo ed Euridice, the orchestra accompanies arias and dialogue alike.

Sets and costumes for Arizona Opera’s Orfeo ed Euridice come from the critically-acclaimed 2007 Glimmerglass Opera production in Cooperstown, N.Y. With sets by John Conklin, one of the foremost scenic designers in the country, and costumes by Constance Hoffman, the Glimmerglass production was praised as “handsome” by the New York Times’ music critic Anthony Tommasini. The original director of the Glimmerglass production, Lillian Groag, will direct the performances here in Arizona.

“Whenever I prepare a new production I ask myself why do this opera/play today? What is the meaning of this one?” said Groag. “[For me,] Orfeo ed Euridice seems to have to do with a failure of faith, the greatest sin in all theologies.”

Choreography for Orfeo ed Euridice is by Keturah Stickann. Arizona Opera Principal Conductor Joel Revzen conducts all five performances. Performances are accompanied by English supertitles.

Performances of Orfeo ed Euridice are April 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and April 15 at 2 p.m. at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 N. 2nd St. Performances are also April 21 at 7:30 p.m. and April 22 at 2 p.m. at Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Ticket prices begin at $25 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets by calling 1-800-982-2787 or visiting online www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available through the Arizona Opera Box Office from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. at (602) 266-7464 in Phoenix or (520) 293-4336 in Tucson or www.azopera.org.

Production is generously sponsored by Mary Jo and David Christensen and Lewis & Roca.