Review: New Orleans Opera's 'Orpheus' blurs lines between opera, Broadway

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 11:31:07 PM. Opera companies around the world are facing a serious conundrum: how to fill all those empty seats.
Opera companies around the world are facing a serious conundrum: how to fill all those empty seats. In attempting to find new audiences for its centuries-old art form, the opera world appears to be leaning more and more toward a lighthearted musical theater approach. This may be anathema to some purists, but “going Broadway” may be a necessary step for the survival of American opera companies, especially smaller ones competing with other performing arts organizations for audiences. The New Orleans Opera Association’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld,” sung in English, is a commendable effort by the company to attract new fans. The operetta is a lively romp through heaven and hell, from the heights of Mount Olympus to the depths of Hades, where the gods and goddesses seem to have had more fun. It succeeds best, however, when it adheres to the more traditional guidelines of what an opera should be, namely singing and orchestral accompaniment. Much of the work is too “talky,” and excessive dialogue in an opera can become annoying, even when the lines are funny. Why couldn’t someone have transformed these spoken lines into recitatives? Offenbach’s 1858 operatic version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and their journey to Hades was a satire on French society and royalty of the composer’s time, the Second Empire of Napoleon III. The work became famous for the closing act’s “Infernal Galop” and its high-kicking dance number, better known as the...Read more
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