Deliriously funny Orphée aux enfers: Salzburg festival, August 23, 2019

Photo: Monika Rittershaus, SF

The first night at the Salzburg festival this year turned out to be a lot of fun listening to catchy melodies by Offenbach and admiring witty, ironic direction by Barry Kosky colorfully and attractively telling us the story of Orpheus in the Underworld. In fact, this is another case where the main protagonist is shadowed by directorial concept and stong performers in supporting roles – I would say that Eurydice without doubt becomes the title character while John Styx both as a character and performer holds the storyline together and makes sense out of the visual voudeville bringing forward eternal important questions on meaning of life and nature of death.

Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Another theme both in the operetta itself and Kosky interpretation is about transformation. Jupiter as a god can transform himself and become either a fly or a golden shower, also Pluto can embody any character of his liking. For us, humans, mostly death provides such an opportunity and we donot know where it will bring us – to heaven or to hell. Offenbach presumes that the hell is much more interesting place to be, also offering opportunity to further transformations. In her wordly life Eurydice wants to change her fate and become someone else – while actually it becomes possible only after she experiences death. Orpheus is condemned to his own self until death liberates him, and even the journey to reclaim his unloved wife does not transform him into better or different person.

The ensemble was having at least as much fun as the audience! Especially smart move by Barry Kosky was the way how the spoken dialogue was integrated in the production since for me personally this is the major turn-off in any operetta, even if the dialogue is in my native tongue. Here the spoken text supposedly being French has been “sound dubbed” by John Styx, played by Maxx Hopp from Berlin Komische oper ensemble. He is also speaking all the text part of all characters, relieving singers form unfamiliar and complicated task to be also spoken word actors.

Anne Sofie von Otter was brilliant as Public Opinion, Kathryn Lewek sparkled both vocally and dramatically – she is a natural for such opera buffa or operetta type of roles, and Marcel Beekman as Pluto was extraordinary!

Loved it, if you have a chance to see it recorded, highly recommend for a few hours of pure enjoyment!

Ensemble at curtain call

Orphée aux enfers

Jacques Offenbach (1819 – 1880)

Opéra-bouffon in two acts and four scenes (Composite Version 1858/1874)

Libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halév

  • Enrique Mazzola Conductor
  • Barrie Kosky Director
  • Rufus Didwiszus Sets
  • Victoria Behr Costumes
  • Franck Evin Lighting
  • Otto Pichler Choreography
  • Susanna Goldberg Dramaturgy


Vocalconsort Berlin, Vienna Philharmonic

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