Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice (1774 Paris version)
Dmitry Korchak (Orphée), Andriana Chuchman (Euridice), Lauren Snouffer (Love), Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus, Michael Black (chorus master), Harry Bicket (conductor), The Joffrey Ballet, John Neumeier (choreographer, stage director, set, costume and lighting designer), Matthew Diamond (video director), David Horn (executive producer)
Live recording: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Illinois (2018) – 118’
C Major Entertainment 714308 (or Blu-ray 714404) (Distributed by Naxos of America) – PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 – Format: 16:9 – Region code 0 – Booklet in English, German and French – Subtitles in French, English, German, Korean and Japanese
John Neumeier has the depth and breadth of balletic interpretations with an amassment of over 120 works. These have included not only repertoire staples, but also subjects with a biblical context such as Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Set inside a contemporary backdrop, M. Neumeier’s aim is to give relevancy to love and loss through the tripartite of dance, music and voice. And while this suggested integration is understandable, the continuity doesn’t congeal.
The short in electrical circuitry is directed to the dance. Musically-speaking, Orphée et Eurydice has some of the most illustrious Classical passages, and, indeed, Harry Bicket delivers an orchestration with remarkable lushness. Equally compelling, the three singers lead the storyline with Lauren Snouffer delivering a knockout Amour, particularly because she ‘gets into her persona’ in a very deep and convincing way. Dmitry Korchak’s Orphée is, initially, hollow and canned (with difficulty in melismatic lines during his ariette, “L’espoir renaît dans mon âme”), though he picks up greater steam upon entering Act III. With the accompaniment of Andriana Chuchman (Eurydice), together, they pair splendidly and fashionably inside “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice”, generating one of the strongest pathos inside the drame héroïque.
Back to the danse. Inside the program’s “A Talk with the Director”, M. Neumeier is quoted, “In Orphée, we’re dealing with a mythical subject in believable, direct terms.” Granted, the reality is established early on, when a Fiat comes crashing through the wall and Eurydice’s inevitable demise. That’s the only place where virtual plausibility hits the observer…the production’s remains crumble without merging the disciplines with grand fluidity. Costuming attempts to meld present-day couture (insipid Orphée garb) with alien space-like creatures (i.e. "Dance of the Furies") frolicking and creeping around in diaphanous mishmash of colors.
M. Neumeier wants to be in control of everything, so he can achieve unity, and he talks about “…the spark of choreographic improvisation”...that appears to be what some artists would interpret as being ‘intuitive reasoning and resolution.’ A sense of logical decorum alongside a modicum of tastefulness would prove otherwise in this production. The Joffrey Ballet’s steps are jerky, angular and robotic with scooping arms and 90 degree leg bends (?) Postured by abrasion, the dance design doesn’t elegantly dovetail with Gluck’s music. A disappointment.