Thursday, September 03, 2009

"Come, do your husband's bidding!"

To the posh singing last night as a first birthday treat for the Dr. Scarlet Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice is on until Saturday at the Bridewell Theatre and very good it is too.

For those who don't know their Greek mythology (or haven't read the Sandman comic), Orfeo has just married Euridice when she only goes and dies. He's a bit miffed about this, so heads down to the Underworld to grab her back. The deal is he can lead her up to Earth again so long as he doesn't look at her until they both back out in the open. And he's not allowed to tell her why he can't look at her, either. So all the way up, she's wheedling and nagging. And he can't help but glance round...

The 1762 operatic version by the splendidly named Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck plonks on a deus ex machina happy ending which maybe misses the whole point (and I presume means this Orpheus doesn't get torn apart by Crazy Ladies). It's a smallish show - three leads and a chorus of five. But that suits baroque opera well, and means the voices and diction is all quite distinct.

It's also an effectively simple production. The only set is a lot of dry ice and a line of hanging branches, through which ghosts can step eerily. The performers wore simple robes, and when the chorus appear as the Furies they've got hoods and masks that made me think of ninjas. Orfeo wears a small dagger in his belt which, until he then wants to use it in Act Three, I thought was some kind of compensation for his being played by a lady.

Oh yes: Orfeo and Euridice are both played by ladies. There is girl-on-girl kissing and everything. Bargain.

Afterwards there were drinks and much earnest discussion of how women are judged by their bits, and then a long trek home through the pouring rain. We got chips and soaked but had a splendid night.

Am off to Brussels tomorrow in the next stage of the Dr's birthday. But two bloggers to follow just at the moment: George Orwell blogs from this day in 1939, on the declaration of war. It's worth working through his earlier posts on the lead-up, too. He's got a canny eye for detail as he scans the various papers, and he also let's you know what the weather's like.

Meanwhile, yesterday in 1666, Samuel Pepys was woken to news of London going up in smoke. It's a terrific, vivid bit of reportage. Though no mention of the role played by the Terileptils.