Choose which of the two simultaneous performances you want to see. And then put on the virtual reality glasses. The Opera Forward Festival offered with Orpheus | love | Eurydiceabbreviated O/A/Ea completely different form of musical theater.
Spread over nine days, the Dutch National Opera offers a program that focuses on the possibilities of keeping the phenomenon of opera viable. Under the title Opera Forward Festival (OFF), demonstrations with the spoken word, an image and sound installation and several new operas on the theme of parting and death can be seen. There is even a concert ‘The opera becomes pop’ by the mezzo-soprano Katia Ledoux.
On the first day of OFF, Saturday March 5, the Dutch National Opera and Ballet presented two productions based on the Roman legend of the singer Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice. The large-scale version Euridyce – Die Liebenden, Blind in the traditional style of composer/librettist Manfred Trojahn (read review) had its world premiere in the main hall for around 1,300 spectators, while in the small Boekmanzaal an experimental vision of the drama was presented to a select audience of two groups of about ten people were deployed. This is how many OFF pieces are distinguished from each other.
with the abbreviation O/A/E the title refers to Orphée, Amour and Euridyce in the experimental approach. They are the characters of the opera that Christoph Willibald von Gluck composed in the second half of the 18th century. The Dutch theater director Robin Coops divided the figures into separate and simultaneous performances, hence the bars between the abbreviated capital letters.
The visitor could previously opt for a vision of history centered on Orphée or Eurydice. I ended up in the Orphée group. Both performances took place simultaneously in a space that was divided into three ‘rooms’. Spectators sat on a platform that gradually rose.
In the group Orphée, singer Lucas van Lierop played the title character, looking like a pop singer in his black leather suit. Accompanied by electric guitar, he sang about Orphée’s confusion when his mistress left him. They were still in contact with projected text messages, but the separation was irreversible.
Robin Coops incorporated his own experiences with a broken relationship and the comfort he drew from Gluck’s opera into this montage. The duel was also processed through fragments of that opera. Van Lierop recited them in a beautiful and powerful tenor voice in arrangements by composer Zbigniew Wolny.
With virtual reality glasses
Visitors were then ushered into a second room, where they were fitted with virtual reality goggles. With hand movements, the viewer could influence the images that virtual reality director Avinash Changa had designed. He featured a tall lady in a red evening dress, I suppose representing Euridyce.
As instructed, we were able to walk in circles to experience the full projection, which I avoided so as not to lose my balance. Glasses like this give you a completely different feeling of spaciousness. Nice toy, but I didn’t notice the added value in the story experience.
The performance ended in a third ‘room’, separated from the first by a canvas, where singer/guitarist Van Lierop sang his sorrow in Gluck’s famous aria ‘Che farò senza Euridice’. A truly impressive moment in the 30+ minute long experiment.
Spectators of the ‘Eurydice’ counterplay, which I did not experience, also followed her to the three rooms. The title heroine was portrayed there by a ballet dancer. A virtual reality experience had been replaced by sounds through headsets. L’Amour, dressed in a dress suit, skipped texts in English declaiming between the two parties.
To what extent the contribution O/A/E yield something for the development of opera and musical theater is a question mark for me. Composer Michel van der Aa has already made significant advances with three-dimensional media in full-length pieces. For Robin Coops it seems to be O/A/E a good finger exercise for a substantial future project.
The contribution O/A/E it was only available during the first weekend of OFF. A new chamber opera, named after Denis & Katya, will be performed on March 11. They are two young people who ran away from home and sent their adventures to the world through a live broadcast. Philip Venables composed the music for the libretto by Ted Huffman, who also directs and has included video footage. The production will also be screened on March 14, 16 and 18 in the main hall of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet.
On March 12, a multimedia opera will be premiered by a team of artists led by Lisenka Heijboer Castanón under the title I have missed you forever† The theme fits very well with the story of Orpheus, because this opera is also about goodbye and death. It is a co-production with Asko|Schönberg Ensemble. It will be live at the International Theater Amsterdam, alias Stadsschouwburg, also on March 13, 15, 17 and 18.
Katia Ledoux will sing her pop-opera program once on March 12 at 4:45 p.m. in the foyer of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet.
Review Eurydice – Die Liebenden, blind (Place de l’Opera)
Interview with Manfred Trojahn (March 2, 2022, Place de l’Opera)
Opera Forward Festival Program