There is a treat in store for lovers of dance as well as opera. Scottish Opera have used the original 1762 score of Gluck’s work but have added in additional ballet music from later versions and renowned choreographer Ashley Page has worked his magic to help create a stunning feast for the senses.
The set design, by the late Johan Engels, is arresting from the outset. A huge perspex box centre stage acts as the centrepiece of the action and it revolves and changes colour through effective, although occasionally blinding, use of lighting. The stark white background of the funeral party scene transforms in an instant to the fiery red of Hades and then to the ethereal greens and yellows of the Elysian Fields.
The costumes are fabulous and fit each scene perfectly – elegant black full skirted frocks and stylish black suits and shades at the opening and closing parties, skintight red snake skin bodysuits for the Furies and bohemian raggedness for the lost souls, the full length white veils and headdresses of the shades and the gossamer tunics of the Elysian dancers all add to the visual feast. The purity of Orfeo and Euridice’s love is reflected in their pure white costumes whilst Amore is colourful and glamorous in her Dior pink and black gown.
But of course it is the music that is the most important part of any opera and thankfully it does not disappoint. The three soloists – mezzo soprano Caitlin Hulcup as Orfeo and sopranos Lucy Hall as Euridice and Ana Quintans as Amore are deliciously clear and the orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Montgomery, is strong but never overwhelming. Originally the role of Orfeo was sung by a castrato but thankfully now the role is played by a counter tenor or mezzo soprano. Hulcup manages to convince as the grieving lover as well as conveying the essential emotional and vocal range of the part – her moving rendition of the famous aria Che Faro Senza Euridice (What will I do without Euridice) hits the right spot.
Happily, Gluck gives his opera a more upbeat ending than the original story on which it is based. Orfeo is inconsolable after the death of his beloved wife, Euridice. The goddess of love, Amore, grants him passage into Hades to bring her back. The only stipulation is that he must not look at her whilst he leads her back to the living world nor can he tell her why. The inevitable happens and Orfeo cannot resist a glance. Euridice dies once more and would appear to be lost to him forever. However just as he is about to take his own life to join her in death, Amore reappears and tells him he has already proved the depth of his love and rewards him by reuniting the lovers once more. The final scene is a Ben Tornati (Welcome Home) party where love and life are toasted and celebrated in style. Bravi!