La Monnaie just closed the run and started the internet streaming of the remarkable new production of Gluck’s Orphée (the Berlioz version) directed by Romeo Castellucci. Big part of the production is a fully conscious but completely paralyzed–saved for the eye movements–woman who follows the performance from her hospital bed. Simultaneously, her image is transmitted to the screen on stage. She ‘enters’ the performance the moment Orpheus finds Eurydice on the other side and they try to communicate. Her image is transmitted live, but there is a lot of pre-recorded video that is equally important. We learn more about Els’s (not her real name, she has chosen to stay anonymous) life thanks to the words in English projected on to the black screen behind Stephanie d’Oustrac while she is singing the preliminary stuff and is being visited by Amour. As she proceeds to “brave le trépas”, the video starts showing the route that Els’s husband takes each time he goes to see her at the hospital.
I’d better stop here before I retell the whole thing: you must watch this while it’s online. The production is really a milestone.
And I can’t remember ever *not* being bored during a Gluck production, so this is a new experience for that reason too. Orfeo, Alceste, Iphigenie, they’re all about death, and this is the closest any director has gotten in bringing death–or mortality, bodily decay, contingency and fragility of life, the very biology of it–on operatic stage, as far as I can tell.
You may notice interesting things about the music too. Hervé Niquet kind of rushes through all the “beautiful melodies” that people often love this opera for, sort of ‘unbeautifies’ them, and it makes very much sense to do so.