'Orpheus and Euridice' Translates to Love, Relationships

By Kanny, Mark | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

'Orpheus and Euridice' Translates to Love, Relationships


Kanny, Mark, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The right truth at the right time is irresistible. Creating an opera as a music drama was the path composer Christopher Wilibald von Gluck took to operatic immortality when he wrote "Orpheus and Euridice." Opera composers ever since have been in his debt.

"The psychological conflict between Orpheus and his wife, Euridice, make me feel these characters are real people, ones audiences today can relate to," says Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's artistic director Jonathan Eaton.

Opera Theater will perform "Orpheus and Euridice" Friday to Sunday at the William Penn Snyder Mansion on the North Side.

Eaton likes to use nontraditional venues more than big proscenium theaters for his operatic productions. Five years ago, he offered a memorable production of composer Lee Hoiby's "Summer and Smoke" at the same mansion on North Side's millionaires row.

"We like to present operas up close and personal," Eaton says. " 'Orpheus' is an intimate work."

Another way Opera Theater shortens the distance between operas and audiences is by performing in English rather than a foreign language. When Eaton looked at older translations of the Italian libretto by Raniero de' Calzabigi he found them too flowery. A more recent one used by English National Opera didn't suit him either.

"When you translate, you can either sharpen and modernize or smooth over and become more poetic," Eaton says. "I decided to sharpen and modernize, as authentically as possible, in what I'd call a producer's translation because there are themes and conflicts built into the work."

The opera's plot is based in Greek mythology and follows Orpheus as he travels to the land of death to bring back his wife, Euridice. …

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