Orfeo ed Euridice, a co-production with United Fall
Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice was composed in the face of great change and reform. Keen to create more engagement with the drama of the opera, Gluck developed a new operatic style in which to communicate the story of Orfeo’s descent into the underworld.
Just as Gluck forged a new path for opera when composing Orfeo ed Euridice, we were also keen to take a new approach and are thrilled to be working with dance theatre director and choreographer Emma Martin of United Fall, who will bring fresh insights to the artform.
We spoke to Emma Martin about what attracted her to Orfeo ed Euridice for her first opera production.
I’ve always hoped to do an opera at some point. This is my first one, and also my first time to work with a pre-existing story. When Fergus Shiel suggested Orfeo ed Euridice to me I had a vague grasp of the story, was attracted to it, and I think I might have said “ask me again in 5 years”. But then my next thought was: yeah…Bring it on… With opera you’re working with all the performance languages, it’s kind of bombastic, satiating all the senses at once, which is really exciting. But there’s an excess and extravagance to opera that can sometimes make it feel really elite and decadent. The myth of Orpheus is like a biblical one. It’s a kind of morality tale, but essentially it’s about being human, the mystery of life and death, the conscious and subconscious. It’s very spacious, but also beautifully pure in its essence. Gluck’s score is astoundingly beautiful, it’s pure humanity and at times feels like sublime sacred music. So it’s a real gift for me to pour my imagination into something so juicy and expansive.
I make work that often spills over into other forms, working with lots of different disciplines in the process of a piece. My work is a kind of theatre, with the body at the centre. So the process for Orfeo is quite organic. There’s lots of dance already written into it, and most of it is really essential to the story. Same with the chorus, their role is absolutely vital.
I’ve decided to set it against a very simple, but very atmospheric space or environment, that is almost a character itself, it’s very alive.
Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is quite clean and lean - it’s dealing with these big emotions and the plot isn’t complicated by chit chat and loads of characters. It feels like an epic sacred poem, a spiritual journey through the realms of the Gods, trailing a thin bright line into hell, into the unknown, into the sublime.
Orfeo, like Jesus or Moses, is a prophet who goes where no mortal dares to venture. Although he’s able to talk with the gods, in this story he’s just a man alone, naked and vulnerable, on a journey to meet death and truth face to face. Like all of us.
Emma Martin, United Fall