Orpheus in the Underworld is a rambunctious and raucous romp into the ancient world that would have Sophocles rolling in his grave – with laughter! Written by Jacques Offenbach and Performed by St Paul’s Opera, the piece is a far cry from a typical night at the theatre, but while it may miss the mark at times in terms of finesse, it certainly makes up for it with limitless humour and plain good fun!
Orpheus and his wife Eurydice are long past the days of marital bliss, but when a seemingly harmless encounter with a lover turns sour, Eurydice finds herself trapped in the underworld and in the clutches of Pluto. Her estranged Husband, Orpheus, is tasked with her rescue and embarks on a journey to Mount Olympus to secure the help of Olympian Jupiter and bring her back.
But does he want her back? And more importantly, does she want to come back?
Musically, this production is stunning. The small, yet powerful, orchestra are right on point. Led by Juliane Gallant, the orchestrations resonate as though the sound it’s coming from a much larger group and reverberates powerfully within the confines of St Paul’s Church in Clapham.
The vocal performances are equally as stunning and special mention should be given to Patricia Ninian as Eurydice and Laura Curry as Mercury. In terms of overall character portrayal, it’s the gentlemen of the cast who excel, in particular, Gareth Edmunds as Pluto and Stephen Cviic as Orpheus.
The stand out performance for me comes from Jonny de Garis in the role of Jupiter. Coming into his own in the second act, Garis brings a fresh and exciting energy to the stage with a vocal prowess that is well matched by his enthusiasm for the character. In a genre such as this, it’s more about commitment to character than a refined realism and Garis certainly nails this.
The ensemble demonstrates a lively chemistry which is infectious for the audience. The strength of this show lies in its enthusiasm and good-natured spirit of fun. Dispensing with the pretense of traditional opera it allows audiences to sit back and enjoy the malarkey with ease.
Audience members are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy in the church grounds, either prior to the show or during intermission. Given that the intermission lasts for around 45 minutes I highly recommend doing this, after all, one does need sustenance for a long journey to the underworld!
Not your typical night at the opera, but for this reason a much more accessible night for those new to the genre. Corners are cut and conventions are disregarded, but as I heard one audience member say during the interval – “it’s smashing good fun!”
Review by Cassandra Griffin
Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld is a riotous, fun, fast-paced opera with some seriously addictive tunes. With a raucous story mocking everything from grand opera to the political establishment, it is certain to surprise and delight.
Following the sell-out success of last year’s innovative production of Die Zauberflöte, we are thrilled to welcome back the directorial duo of Ashley Pearson and Louisa Tee. Also new for 2017 is the addition of a third performance, running from Thursday, 29th June to Saturday 1st July.
The full cast reads:
Public Opinion: Marina Barker (Morley)
Eurydice: Patricia Ninian (Morley)
Orpheus: Stephen Cviic (Morley)
Pluto: Gareth Edmunds (RWCMD)
Venus: Olivia Sjöberg (GHSMD)
Cupid: Sophie Horrocks (Cambridge)
Jupiter: Jonny de Garis (GHSMD)
Diana: Olivia Lewis (Trinity Laban)
Mercury: Laura Curry (RWCMD)
Juno: Marie-Anne Hall (Morley)
John Styx: William Wallis (Cambridge
St Paul’s Church, Rectory Grove, Clapham SW4 0DR