Friday, April 6, 2012

"The 'Orfeo' Diaries": Shrew or Doe?

Arizona Opera's Euridice, soprano Christine Brandes
One of the more daunting challenges with the role of Euridice is finding a way to convey the profound disorientation and fear she experiences at Orfeo's silence without tipping over into the realm of the nagging wife. While the myth can be read in such a way as to conclude she has mercilessly hounded poor Orfeo into looking at her and unwittingly causing her death, we have opted for a more nuanced approach.

What must it be like to die so suddenly? To be transported to the sweet oblivion of Elysium only to be retrieved by your beloved who refuses to look at you as he drags you back to the upper world through the harrowing realm of the underworld? As a Greek friend of mine would say, "I was like a deer without headlights!" Hence, our doe-like Euridice initially speaks from a place of bewilderment that is nonetheless infused with her innate sweetness, love and faith in Orfeo's love for her. After asking so many times and in so many ways for Orfeo to simply look at her, her faith is crushed by his brusque demand for her to shut up and follow him. Sweet bewilderment is replaced by frustration, fear and anguish. Ultimately, her life force begins to weaken, and we discover she will die of a broken heart before Orfeo can reach the surface. To a degree, it is Orfeo's desperation at hearing the fading of her spirit that provokes his look back in an ill-fated attempt to save her. It is not the relentless kvetching of Euridice the Shrew but the rapid heart beat and labored breath of the dying doe
. Soprano Christine Brandes (Euridice) 

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