L'orfeo

→ Favola in musica in fünf Akten
Music Claudio Monteverdi
Text Alessandro Striggio

Premiere 11th of June 2022

Premiere series 11th / 13th / 16th / 18th of June 2022

Introductory matinee 5th of June 2022

Musical Direction Pablo Heras-Casado
Orfeo Georg Nigl
Euridice Slávka Zámečníková
La Musica / La Speranza Kate Lindsey
Messaggiera / Proserpina Christina Bock
Plutone Andrea Mastroni

Concentus Musicus Wien

Staging Tom Morris
Stage Design & Costume Design Anna Fleischle
Lighting Design James Farncombe
Video Finn Ross
Choreography Jane Gibson
Dramaturgy Nikolaus Stenitzer

What makes Claudio Monteverdi’s Favola d’Orfeo (Legend of Orpheus), premiered at the northern Italian court in Mantua in 1607, the very first opera? Naturally there were a few forerunners. However, for the first time the music in this work itself not only symbolically takes up the words as an allegory in the prologue but the entire scenic events are musically interwoven congenially. The Orpheus settings from the ancient and renaissance eras portrayed the mythical singer, who knew how to charm all nature and even softened the underworld, as rather more a virtuoso master of eloquence than an interpreter of music. It was only Monteverdi that by inviting a celebration of the achievements of a new "representative style" (stile rappresentativo) unleashed new musical driving forces. Polyphonic, lively dance-like, or solemnly measured choirs and a richly cast instrumental apparatus frame Monteverdi's tonal depiction of words and affect, that touches us to this day with undiminished freshness and depth of expression.

After jubilant, heavenly wedding preparations are abruptly interrupted by the news of the death of the bride Eurydice, who died from a snakebite, we traverse with the orphaned Orpheus the abysses of mourning and despair, and accompany him on his way into the underworld. After he "has let go of every hope," he starts a song of mourning that pulls all the heartstrings of internalized pain and highly virtuoso alienation. Paradoxically, this heartfelt centerpiece of the opera leads us however not to power, but to the impotence of the song before our eyes: Charon, the ferryman, remains deaf to this imploring supplication and refuses to cross into the realm of the dead. Only the fact that he falls asleep enables Orpheus to sneak there unheroically. And it's not Orpheus’ singing immediately either, but only the intercession of the wife of Pluto, the god of the dead, that convinces him to consent to the return of Eurydice. This may only happen on the condition that causes Orpheus to lose her a second time. The triumph and misery of art have therefore been part of the opera genre ever since the beginning, inscribed as: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better." (Beckett)

Director Tom Morris invites us all as visitors to a wedding party that he has imagined as the framework for his staging as a contemporary equivalent to the courtly festival.

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Tom Morris – playwright, actor, lyricist, critic, broadcaster and producer – is currently artistic director at Bristol Old Vic. Under Tom’s direction, the theatre, which dates back to 1766, has recently undergone an award-winning, multi-million transformation.

Tom has brought a wealth of experience to the position. As artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre between 1995-2004, he nurtured ground-breaking productions such as Jerry Springer: The Opera; World Cup Final 196; Jason and the Argonauts, and Ben Hur. After Battersea, Tom became associate director at the National Theatre in London. It was here that he came up with the idea of using state-of-the art puppetry to create a theatrical version of Michael Morpurgo's ‘unstageable’ novel War Horse: a production that won Tom a Tony Award for Best Director.

Tom’s tastes are eclectic, edgy and on occasion risky, but always innovative, with his dramatic flair leading to some of the most memorable moments on the British stage. His recent success at Bristol Old Vic can be summed up by emphasising two, probably not unconnected, feats that he has accomplished: bringing extraordinary talent to the stage of Bristol Old Vic, and attracting audiences who might not have previously regarded themselves as theatre-goers.

His productions at Bristol Old Vic have included Pink Mist; Cyrano; Touching The Void (Bristol, West End and UK and International Tour); The Grinning Man (Bristol and West End); Swallows and Amazons (Bristol, West End and UK tour); Juliet and Her Romeo; The Crucible; King Lear; Messiah; Jane Eyre (Bristol, West End and UK tour), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Opera credits include Breaking The Waves (Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures), and The Death of Klinghoffer (ENO and Metropolitan Opera).

Tom holds honorary doctorates from UWE and Bristol University, and an OBE for services to theatre.