Friday, April 29, 2011

A History of "Orfeo ed Euridice" at the Metropolitan Opera

Risë Stevens as Orfeo (Photo: Tony Vaccaro)
As Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice is set to open tonight at the Metropolitan Opera with David Daniels, let's take a look back at the many stars who have sung the role of Orfeo at this famous company. The first performance given by the MET was actually at the Boston Theatre in Massachusetts and was sung in German with Marianne Brandt taking on the lead role in 1885. The next performance took place in 1891 with Giulia Ravogli singing Orfeo in Chicago, Illinois. In an interesting pairing, the work received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on December 11, 1893, with Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci taking the second part of the evening. Sofia Scalchi sang Orfeo and Nellie Melba sang Nedda. Quite an interesting night to be sure. The production returned in 1895 with Marie Brema as Orfeo and this time sharing the evening with Emma Calvé as Anita in the U.S. premiere of Massenet's La Navarraise. The opera gets revived in 1909 with Louise Homer in a new production with a drastically revised score by conductor of the performances, Arturo Toscanini. Marie Delna makes her debut as Orfeo in the last performance of this run. The original cast of this production returned for the 1910-11 and 1911-12 seasons for a revival with Margarete Matzenauer stepping in for one performance as Orfeo. There is one more performance on March 2, 1914, before this production takes a respite until 1936 when Orfeo ed Euridice returns to the MET in a new production conceived by George Balanchine that puts the singers in the orchestra pit and dancers portraying them on stage. Anna Kaskas was Orfeo
David Daniels as Orfeo at the Metropolitan (Photo: Annie Leibovitz)
and the performance was on a double-bill with Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Kerstin Thorborg arrives in 1938 as Orfeo in a new production directed by Herbert Graf with sets by Harry Horner. When brought back in 1939, Erich Leinsdorf takes over conducting duties when Artur Bodanzky passes away and in 1941, Bruno Walter steps into the pit for Maestro duties. In February 1955, a new era began with Risë Stevens taking on the title role under conductor Pierre Monteux. From this point on a series of popular mezzo-sopranos including Grace Bumbry (1970) and Marilyn Horne (1972). The opera disappeared until the current Mark Morris production premiered in 2007 with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi and conducted by James Levine. The performances also marked the MET role debut as Orfeo for David Daniels. The role was put back in the hands of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe when the production was revived in 2009. In addition to countertenor David Daniels, the current run will mark the debut of soprano Kate Royal as Euridice and the Amor of Lisette Oropesa, all under conductor Antony Walker. [Source]

A listening guide through various interpretations of "Che farò senza Euridice" throughout MET history:

Risë Stevens

Grace Bumbry

Marilyn Horne

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