NOTES: MasterVoices’ “Orphic Moments”
Last week, MasterVoices, New York’s acclaimed 130-member chorus, presented a two concert production of “Orphic Moments” at Jazz at Lincoln Center as part of its 76th annual concert series.
Under the helm of Tony Award-winning Artistic Director Ted Sperling conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, “Orphic Moments” is a unique and original concert pairing of an abridged version of Gluck’s 1762 baroque opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” with Matthew Aucoin’s 2016 composition, “The Orphic Moment”—both adaptions of the ancient Roman tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, a foundational myth of music and stirring meditation on human nature.
Staged at the Rose Theater with elegant economy by director Zack Winokur and a smart set design by Douglas Fitch, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo gives a gorgeous performance as Orfeo, demonstrating the technical proficiency that have earned him record deals and engagements with the world’s leading opera companies. Alongside him are soprano Kiera Duffy, soprano Lauren Snouffer, and dancer Bobbi Jene Smith.
Gluck’s masterpiece opens with a fast flourish of activity as Eurydice receives the fatal snakebite at their wedding, then proceeds slowly as Orpheus follows her to the Underworld to plead with the gods for her life. The recitative structure and baroque style of his score often belie the darkness of the underlying story; a swift light change in Act III signifies the switch to Aucoin’s composition, which injects a sudden jolt of modern sensibility as the literal “Orphic moment” unfolds and Orpheus violates the one condition of Eurydice’s extradition that he cannot look at her until emerging from the Underworld.
Aucoin’s interpolated piece provides the gripping tension absent elsewhere, before Act III concludes with the closing of Gluck’s score. This pairing makes for a dynamic and fascinating evening of opera and music. The New York Times lamented that the initial 2016 engagement at National Sawdust in Brooklyn was only offered twice; I now similarly join in lamenting that this presentation of “Orphic Moments” by MasterVoices only received two performances. Hopefully, an encore will follow.