Thursday, February 24, 2011

'Orphee' by Philip Glass
at Herbst Theater This Weekend

(Members of the "Orphee" cast in rehearsal. Credit: Steve DiBartolomeo, Westside Studio Images.)

Bay Area fans of Philip Glass eagerly await the fall 2012 performances of his landmark opera "Einstein on the Beach" in Berkeley, and until then we can expect a number of opportunities to hear his other works live including this weekend's two performances of "Orphee."

For this lover of Glass' music, there simply are not enough companies around our area performing his hypnotic scores. I also dearly miss the store-front Oakland Opera Theater that staged the Glass works "Akhnaten" and "Les Enfants Terribles" before financial crises forced them to close their doors. Both productions had a vitality of superior quality and the intimate setting genuinely engaged the audience.

This chamber opera is based upon the classic French film by Jean Cocteau and the company putting on the show, the Ensemble Parallele, offers this synopsis:

Orphee, the poet and wayward husband of Eurydice, falls in love with a mysterious Princess – Death – who seduces him with the powers of the underworld. In Act I, set in the upperworld, the Princess holds forth as the Ringmaster of a disguised circus world. In Act II, in the underworld, the surreal burlesque circus is revealed in its full regale, as Orphée is put on trial.

The artistic director of Ensemble Parallele, Nicole Paiment, will be conducting and the production was designed and directed by Brian Staufenbiel.

In the cast are Eugene Brancoveanu, as Orphee, Marnie Breckenridge, in the role of the princess, John Duykers as Heurtebise, and Susannah Biller singing the Eurydice part. Smaller roles will be acted by Philip Skinner, Thomas Glenn, Austin Kness, Brooke Muñoz and David Poznanter.

Why wait until next autumn to hear a Glass opera in a live staging, by an adventuresome company with innovative folks putting on the show? Tickets can be purchased through City Box Office and the show plays at the Herbst Theater Saturday at 8 pm and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday.

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