Opera and Dance Review by Sarah Frye
Rating 3 out of 4
It’s hard to believe that the Lyric Opera and Joffrey Ballet have never collaborated before on a production. These two pillars of the art scene in Chicago can clearly stand on their own accord but you have to applaud them for joining forces for a reproduction of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s original 1774 version of Orphée et Eurydice. The partnership made perfect sense as the season opener for the Lyric and the city showed up in their finery to see this Chicago premiere. Unfortunately the performance felt a bit disjointed between the two ensembles.
I heard from more than one patron at intermission that they were surprised at how much ballet there was in this production. The dancing and choreography is indeed central to the storyline and the Lyric promotional materials state that it remains an opera with dance and that the performance relies on the amazing opera performers. Each ensemble seemed separate from the other and never cohesively joined for a fully packed performance. They should each support each other to progress the story along. Act One gets off to a rough start during which the tragedy that propels the storyline occurs. During the accident aftermath, the dancers perform a more avant garde aesthetic that is intended to connect you to the trauma but missed the mark. The same can be said for when Orphée first enters the underworld. Not only until he convinces the Furies of his grief and love do things begin to pick up and feel more whole.
When Elysium revealed itself, one finally felt a connection to the performance. The pleasant afterworld was ethereal and what the Joffrey does best. The dancers embodied their characters and their partnering was effortless. The simplistic scenery lent the focus to be upon the music and the dancers. Just like Eurydice, we didn’t want to leave that world for the harsh, cold realities of Hades and what lies ahead.
Dmitry Korchak, Lauren Snouffer and Andriana Chuchman are all at the top of their game as Orphée, Amour and Eurydice. While I couldn’t fully buy into their relationships with one another, all three performed beautifully. Gluck’s compositions were lush and beautiful. You can’t help but fall in love with the music. However, Act 3 again felt like two separate pieces as Orphée laments his failure at bringing back his love and Armour convincing him that all is not lost; which then leads into a 15 minute piece by the dancers.
Overall, Director, Choreographer and Production Designer John Neumeirer brought wonderful moments to the Lyric’s collaboration with the Joffrey. There are beautiful moments between the singers and between the dancers. I only wish the two had felt more cohesive as one production, rather than bits and pieces thrown together. I do hope to see more collaborations between the two, especially with the recent news that the Joffrey is leaving their performance home at the Auditorium Theatre for the Lyric starting in 2020.
Performance dates for Orphée et Eurydice are Sept. 23 (6:30pm, opening night of the season), Sept. 27, Oct. 6, and Oct. 9 at 7:30pm; and Oct. 1, 12 and 15 at 2pm. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go tolyricopera.org/orphee.
Running time is approximately two hours and 20 minutes, including intermission.