Orfeo et Euridice at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, Germany

This review is for the performance of 1 July, 2018, in a production that premiered in 2016.

Conductor: Domingo Hindoyan
Director: Jürgen Flimm

Cast

Orfeo: Bejun Mehta
Euridice: Elsa Dreisig
Amore: Narine Yeghiyan
Jupiter: Wolfgang Stiebritz
Dancers

I didn‘t know Orfeo et Euridice very well before last night’s performance - I knew the broad plot outline that Euridice is in Hades and Orfeo has been provided the means to rescue her, provided that in escorting back to the world that he doesn’t look at her.

The production, by the Staatsoper’s former Intendant, Jürgen Flimm, has, of course, been updated to modern times (but nothing extreme). There is no evidence of Roman/Greek myth in the film sense, so the opera opens with Orfeo wheeling a gurney bearing the remains of Euridice with a fire burning in the background. Euridice’s funeral takes place, attended by the chorus dressed in black robes and hoods (think KKK garb, but in black), and Euridice‘s body is removed by chorus members/dancers/supernumeraries, who replace her with Orfeo on the gurney, who then is stabbed to death - I guess to give him the one needed credential to enter the underworld. The scene changes to an abstract, modern construction meant to resemble rocky cliffs that is populated by the chorus. The cliffs fade away and we see a bedchamber with Euridice. The interaction between Orfeo and Euridice - who clearly is tormented that Orfeo won’t look at her, is beautifully sung and very sad (I couldn’t help wondering why Orfeo doesn’t just tell her that he isn’t allowed to look at her and get on with it, but that would spoil the point).

Last night was the first time I had heard or seen a countertenor in person. Bejun Mehta, whose name and reputation I was vaguely familiar with - but whose recordings I had never listened to, is a very compelling singer. Mehta sings powerfully and very expressivly. He also acts well - even in the highly stylized idiom of baroque opera. Orfeo et Euridice, fortunately, is only about 90 minutes long and performed in a single act. I say fortunately, as Mehta is on stage continuosly for the duration, with a few minutes break here and there for Euridice’s arias, so he also has considerable stamina.

Elsa Dreisig’s Euridice sang just as beautifully and compellingly as Bejun Mehta and the two had superb stage chemistry. The Staatsoper’s cheapo cast list, unlike the Deutsche Oper, provides no cast biographies, but I see from her online bio that she won first prize in Placido Domingo’s “Operalia” in 2016 and also was Opernwelt’s “Young Artist of the Year”, also in 2016. She is only 27, so she should have a good career ahead of her. She currently is an ensemble member of the Berliner Staatsoper.

The comprimario role of Amore, sung by Narine Yeghiyan also was perceptively cast, as she sang well and was a sympathetic Cupid who noticed the couple’s love for each other, reuniting them in the world despite their desperate end in the underworld.

The conductor, Domingo Hindoyan, led an energetic and beautifully played performance by the Staatsoper orchestra. Hindoyan began his studies in the Venezuelan musical education program „El Sistema“ and went on to study in Europe under conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sir Andrew Davis and masterclasses with Bernard Haitink. He is married to Sonya Yoncheva.

All in all, another wonderful and exciting evening at the opera here in Berlin!