HomeOperaConductor Stephen Stubbs Discusses Gluck And Orpheus

Conductor Stephen Stubbs Discusses Gluck And Orpheus


Orpheus and Eurydice conductor Stephen Stubbs sat down with Seattle Opera to debate the longevity of the Orpheus delusion, the storys malleable ending, and what units Christoph Willibald Gluck’s model aside.

Why have been the Renaissance inventors of opera so obsessed
with the parable of Orpheus?

Two causes: first, when opera was new—and even right now—an
apparent query is, ‘Why are these folks singing at one another as an alternative of
talking?’ But when your protagonist is the semi-god of music, and he’s
surrounded by all these nymphs and shepherds from the pastoral world, you’ve created
a actuality the place it is sensible that everyone would sing on a regular basis. Additionally,
these Renaissance artists favored what the story says concerning the energy of music. Orpheus
can tame wild beasts by music, and even has the ability to go to hell and
convey Eurydice again.

You’ve labored on a number of Orpheus operas. Do you
have a favourite?

Sure, for the primary 200 years of opera, they have been continuously
writing operas about Orpheus. Claudio Monteverdi and Christoph Willibald Gluck
get carried out lots. The Orfeo of Luigi Rossi (1647) is a incredible
piece, properly worthy of revival. They simply gave it at Juilliard. And Marc-Antoine
Charpentier’s incomplete Descente d’Orphée aux enfers (1686) has
among the most elegant music I do know. Antonio Sartorio’s (1672) is one other
favourite. Close to and expensive to my coronary heart is La morte d’Orfeo of 1619 by
Stefano Landi. We gave that one final yr with the Younger Artists of L.A. Opera at
a flamenco bar in Silverlake. It’s a sequel to Monteverdi’s Orfeo of
1607; it reveals Orpheus being torn limb from limb by the wild Bacchantes. And
now that he’s really lifeless, he goes to search out Eurydice within the underworld, however
she doesn’t acknowledge him anymore

La morte d’Orfeo at El Cid in Silverlake in 2020. Credit score: Craig T. Matthew / LA Opera

That’s not how Monteverdi ended his opera!
Truly, the ending of Monteverdi’s
Orfeo is
debated. The libretto and rating don’t agree. Within the libretto, the wild girls tear
Orpheus limb from limb, and his head goes floating down the river (as occurs
in Ovid’s
Metamorphoses). However that opera was written for a marriage, and apparently
someone mentioned, “That ending simply isn’t acceptable,” so that they wrote the ending
the place Orpheus joins his father Apollo in heaven. I simply wrote new music for the
first ending, the one from the printed libretto, doing my finest to make use of
Monteverdi’s musical language. We’ll carry out my new ending at a live performance in
Seattle subsequent Might.

You and your colleagues have eradicated the deus ex machina glad
ending that concludes Gluck’s opera.

Inform us about how this Orpheus will finish.

Sure, I’ve at all times felt the glad ending of the 1762 Vienna
model feels a bit tacked-on, like an appendage. [Stage Director]
Chía Patiño
recommended altering the ending and utilizing the plaintive flute solo, which Gluck added
(for his 1774 French model) to the Elysian Fields scene. We’ll conclude with
simply harp, as Orpheus, and flute, because the soul of Eurydice. I’m enthusiastic about
this new, extra melancholy ending.

Have you ever labored on Gluck’s opera earlier than?
Many occasions, however solely as soon as earlier than with a countertenor. Early music
works finest whenever you carry out it within the register for which it was written. And
countertenors have come a great distance from the hooty, pure, choir-boy sound they
used to make sixty, seventy years in the past…we now have superb virtuosos, with
potent voices for opera.

How was Gluck’s Orfeo
totally different from the everyday 1760s opera?

He places the story-telling energy of music middle stage, and simply
goes straight for the jugular. Consider his “Hell” music. It’s so imposing!
With out refinement, with out curlicues. No composer earlier than him would have accomplished
one thing that bald. To me, that’s its nice power. At the moment, Italian
opera was principally simply virtuoso solos. Gluck infuses it with virtues from the
French
tragédie lyrique: a number of dance, spectacle, and instrumental music. And
complicated prolonged recitatives, just like the lengthy dialogue between Orpheus and
Eurydice after they’re en route again to earth from hell. There, Gluck units his
performers a extremely troublesome activity: the orchestra should ebb and movement with the ever-changing
feelings of the singers. The gamers should perceive the scene deeply, in a means
that challenges trade observe (then as now!).

When Orpheus grieves his misplaced love (in his last aria, “Che
farò senza Euridice”), why is it in a serious key?

In the present day we are inclined to assume Main = Comfortable and Minor = Unhappy. That
wasn’t what they thought within the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Assume
concerning the German phrases,
Dur and
Moll. In that mind-set, Main = Laborious, Minor = Comfortable.
Main keys have been used for something harsh or heroic, minor keys for tenderness.
However this aria remains to be uncommon: I feel it’s about submission to destiny. And
Gluck needed to present Orpheus one thing heart-rendingly stunning to sing.



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