Passion, Drama, and Splendid Singing
Z. Yang | Hockessin, DE USA | 05/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you think Orpheus in Gluck's opera "Orphee et Eurydice" as in Grecian tunic, crowned with a laurel wreath, posing melancholy with lyre in his hand - image usually seen on every other Orphee album cover... well, think NOT for this Australian Opera's 1993 production of Gluck's 1774 Paris version "Orphee et Eurydice". This production takes a creative path in transforming the Greek myth into modern era, while not diluting the classical baroque opera with its avant-garde novelties. Australian tenor David Hobson, shortly after his sensational portrayal of Rodolfo in "La Boheme", made another sensational performance as Orphee. Ambitiously, he sang Orphee in full score, and in the original key with modern pitch. Although lacking the vocal element of a haute-contre (the type of voice the tenor role of Orphee was originally written for), Hobson's vocal is well in tune with this modern production and the aura it created on stage.
Numerous moments in the opera would make one's hair stand on end: "L'espoir renait dans mon amen", a vocally demanding aria Gluck wrote just for tenor Orphee, which Hobson delivered with grace and fire despite of some flaws; "Laissez-vous toucher par mes pleurs", Orphee's heartbreaking plead to the Furies, where the emotion reached its peak by a thrilling high D; "Dances of the Furies", interpreted through a blood-stirring, edgy, modern dance of the furies; and of course, Orphee's last aria, "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice", which Hobson sang with ultimate desolation and desperation...
The production is cleverly designed, and well acted, particularly, Orphee, in which Hobson gives a rendering that is quite different from his famous role, Rodolfo. Character Orphee comes out directly through his singing, and as a result one may very well find oneself satisfied in just listening to the soundtrack. Miriam Gormley's L'Amour, dressed like a street boy, is superb. Whether in L'Amour's haunting vocals, or when acrobatically floating in and out on a swing, or in the little dance solo at the end of the Act III, she is a deft little spirit on stage. Marco Guidarini conducts the music with faster tempo that rightfully energizes the music. Under Guidarini's baton, `Dances of the Furies', with the perfect tempo and sharpness, is the best version I've ever heard."
A matchless performance from Hobson
Cameo | 03/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"International opera-lovers have had to wait a long time for the release of this remarkable 1993 Opera Australia production of the rarely staged 1774 (Paris) Orph?e, in which the central role is sung by an haute-contre tenor.
David Hobson, the same artist who just months earlier had sung Rodolfo in the now legendary Baz Luhrmann production of La Boh?me, enthralled critics and audiences alike with his electrifying portrayal of the grief-stricken and inconsolable Orph?e. Singing the role at the supposedly 'unsingable' modern Standard Pitch of 440, the young Australian tenor, already possessing a strikingly beautiful voice (which has matured into an instrument of both power and beauty, so that he is now recognised as the finest tenor in the country) gave a performance which is remembered with awe. One critic summed it up well when he said that regardless of the length of Hobson's career, he would be unlikely to tackle a more difficult role than Orph?e which . . . is a brute of an assignment for a male with a high tenor voice but below countertenor. He concluded that not only was Hobson's performance a triumph, but that the production itself was a jewel in the (Opera Australia) crown and irresistable, accessable entertainment.
The striking cover of the Kultur DVD captures one of the most visually dramatic moments in the production, with Orph?e suspended high above The Furies as he sings 'Laissez-vous toucher par mes pleurs' - complete with high D - before his descent into Hades to search for his beloved Eurydice. Other highlights include Hobson's singing of the challenging Act I ariette 'L'espoir rena?t dans mon ?me', standing spotlit on a passeraille extending into the otherwise dark theatre, literally within reach of the audience. That passeraille played a significant part in the production and Hobson came to know it rather well, at one point even having to negotiate it blindfold!! The famous 'J'ai perdu mon Eurydice' was not only a heartrending lament, movingly sung, but physically demanding as well, with Hobson sometimes having to sing laying on his stomach or - at the very climax of the aria - trying to drag an inert soprano upright by one arm!
Miriam Gormley's L'Amour, was also sung remarkably well, given the frequently hazardous situations in which she had to perform. This L'Amour played a bigger part than usual in the action, particularly in Act III, when she actually spent more time on stage than Orph?e.
Eurydice doesn't usually appear until Act III, but in this production Amanda Thane also enjoyed some extra stage-time, since the Overture was performed as a ballet, depicting the events leading up to Act I, and also singing the Act III aria "Cet asile aimable et tranquille' which is often allotted to a soprano described as A Happy Shade, but whose presence wasn't required this time, allowing Thane to display her beautiful dark voice in something a little more relaxed, before the next stage of the drama unfolded.
Gluck's Masterwork Benefits from Creative Staging But Remain
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 09/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck hit his musical high watermark with this renowned 1762 opera, famous for bringing a far greater sense of dramatic structure to opera seria than previous Italianate works. Twelve years after its debut, Gluck revised the work to suit French tastes in the 1774 Paris Opera production by adjusting the male lead role from a castrato to a high tenor and adding dance sequences. Stefanos Lazaridis' 1993 Opera Australia production adapts that Paris Opera production and further adds decidedly contemporary elements by staging it on a modern minimalist set. Now finally on DVD in 2006, the result is arresting to the eye and often to the ear, though casting poses some problems for the surging melodrama of this relatively brief opera.
Despite the co-billing of the title, it is really Orphée that dominates as he has the lion's share of the arias in the work. Australian tenor David Hobson is something of a pop icon in his native country thanks to his performance as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann's colorful 1990 production of "La Bohème". Although he often sings meltingly and has the requisite good looks, he lends a too-callow and often wooden presence as the desperately grieving widower, and the depth of the character's despair appears to escape him. This vacuity extends to some of his arias which are sung in a rather monochromatic manner and shallow timbre unsuitable for such a dramatic piece. On the other hand, soprano Amanda Thane certainly lends vocal power to Eurydice, even though her impressive singing is mainly relegated to the third act. The challenge is that she and Hobson have very little chemistry as she often moves rather awkwardly onstage when she needs to come across as ethereal.
Fellow soprano Miriam Gormley has a smooth voice and lends a becalming though unrelenting presence in the small mythic role of Amore. She at least manages a fierceness of intent when she removes a knife from the suicidal Orphée, a dramatically urgent moment in a production with precious few of them. A major plus is the seamless melding of the Australian Opera Chorus and Meryl Tankard's dance troupe as the Furies, whether providing the mournful chorus to Orphée's grieving in the first act or writhing in erotically charged torment on a seemingly insurmountable wall in Hades in the "Dance of the Furies". The striking use of color is most effective in the depiction of the underworld, and the massive Plexiglas cube against a silvery landscape makes for a powerful image of the Elysian Fields.
Conductor Marco Guidarini does a solid job leading the opera orchestra, although the recording quality on the Kultur DVD can be rather lacking at times. Regardless of the creative staging, the area most lacking for me in this production is how the principals fail to pull off the combustible intensity necessary to make the overall dramatic situation palpable. As a point of comparison, I was fortunate enough to see Robert Carsen's stripped-down production of the original 1762 opera this past spring at the Chicago Lyric Opera with countertenor David Daniels and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in the title roles. Both are such charismatic performers that it mattered little that they were performing on what seemed to be a rocky moonscape. The intractable need the characters have for each other is what fails to convince in the Opera Australia production."
Brantwood | Buffalo By USA | 07/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It really is difficult to find ANY fault with this production AND - let us remember that we are watching something other than the production as seen by people in the opera house - with this television/DVD version. As good as it gets. I agree with everything the other commentators have written - especially with the obsevation that this disc is a splendid way to introduce people to opera! Bravi to all concerned."