Orphée aux Enfers


Philipp Stölzl’s 2011 production of Offenbach’s crowd pleaser is cleverly-staged yet musically disappointing. It stars an array of middle-tier German celebrities and a non-native is sure to have a devil of a time trying to figure out what is going on it in the updated and very local German libretto. Many of the singers and actors here have an old-fashioned boulevard theater manner that seems less at home at the opera house than in the nearby “Komödie am Kurfürstendamm Theater.”

The evening’s pleasures lies in the giddy acting and in the clever mis-en-scene, but rarely in the music, heard in a new version by Christoph Israel, Ingo Ludwig Frenzel and Bernd Werfelmeyer and performed by a 14-piece band that featured a prominent banjo and snare drum. Under the musical direction of Julien Salemkour, Offenbach’s stylish and shrewd music sounds honky-tonk, thin and shallow. The musicians play in back of the singers, behind a miniature proscenium.

The slick and clever staging is the evening’s chief delight. The various locations (Outside of Thebes, Olympus, Hell) are depicted via elaborate storybook sets that spring to life like the pages of a giant pop up book. Like much of the stagecraft on display, there is something insistently old-fashioned and finely wrought to the production. The effects and tricks are almost comical in their simplicity (Orpheus and the Public Opinion run around clutching an airplane cut-out on their descent to the underworld), which compensates somewhat for the elegance and sophistication that has been sapped from the music.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES:

DECEMBER 2013: 21., 30.

JANUARY 2014: 5., 12.

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