Classical music: Live opera returns to Vancouver’s QE Theater with Orfeo

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Vancouver Opera House hired Israeli director / choreographer Idan Cohen to create a production that promises to blend singers and dancers, music and movement in a compelling approach.

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Orfeo and Euridice

When: Sat, December 4, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday. Dec 5, 2 p.m.

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Or: Queen Elizabeth Theater, 630 Hamilton Street

Tickets and info: vancouveropera.ca/whats-on/orfeo-ed-euridice/


Vancouver Opera returns to the big stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theater just before the holiday season with a fully staged performance of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, with two shows only on December 4 and 5.

This is great news. Vancouver Opera has weathered our difficult year of pandemic with grace and originality: four streaming productions showed an imaginative approach to small-scale programming and a commitment to quality.

Too many arts organizations here and across the continent are playing it safe with their first live offerings. This is not the case in original version.

Orfeo ed Euridice is, it is true, a treasure of the lyric repertoire, but it hardly appears on the list of the most performed works, and has never been performed here. It was high time, and VO hired Israeli director / choreographer Idan Cohen to create a production that promised to blend singers and dancers, music and movement in a compelling approach.

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Cohen defies easy classification: His Idan Cohen Dance Company and Ne. Sans Opera and Dance have been recognized as groundbreaking, and his work with an assortment of other companies goes far beyond the stilted conventions that are so often the default framework of musical theater.

The myth of Orpheus intrigued Cohen for over half a decade, starting with a 20 minute dance job in 2016 and re-examining in 2018. Here in Vancouver, he does the whole show, with Krisztina Szabó singing along. Euridice, Mireille Lebel as Orfeo and Leslie Dala direct.

“There is something in the story, the theme of love. Orpheus is half a god. His gift to humanity is the gift of music, and that excites me, ”Cohen says. “Orpheus is an artist. He is also a clown, who uses his smile to hide sadness and entertain the audience. After the last two years of the pandemic, I think this is something we all need deeply. “

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Serious opera fans know Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787) as an opera reformer, someone who has tried to delve deeper into the notion of what opera is and can be. Obsolete conventions have been reconsidered; the opera house has been streamlined.

Choreographer Idan Cohen.
Choreographer Idan Cohen. Photo by Lior Noyman

Cohen celebrates his enduring influence and believes contemporary audiences should celebrate him as well. “Gluck has influenced everyone from Mozart to Wagner. There is something for everyone at Gluck. He tells a story through raw emotions.

“The use of dance in this production is just one example of how opera can bring all the arts together. “

Cohen notes that just as Gluck redesigned opera, we can rethink dance and movement.

“We see the music as heavenly and the body as dirty, unclean. We have a very strict notion of what the body is allowed to do and not allowed to do, ”he says. “I want to free the bodies of the singers, to allow them to move freely. I’m not trying to put people in molds.

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“A lot of the vocabulary or the way I create dance is inspired by body language and the way we just act and behave in our daily lives, so it’s a different perspective on the art of dancing. dance. My goal is inclusiveness – everyone on stage expresses something unique to them. “

Where Cohen’s ideas and methods might not suit certain opera boilers, it is instinctively believed that Gluck would understand his goals.

“I think we’ve created something very rich and moving,” Cohen says. “Even when Gluck portrays grief, he does it through beauty. He shows us that sadness is universal.

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