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Gerald Carpenter: Opera Santa Barbara Closes with ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’

Feel the love during performances Friday and Sunday in the Lobero Theatre

Mezzo-soprano Layna Chianakas
Mezzo-soprano Layna Chianakas

The third and final production of Opera Santa Barbara’s 2011-12 season will be Orpheus and Eurydice (Orphée et Eurydice) by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87), with mezzo-soprano Layna Chianakas as Orphée, soprano Marnie Breckenridge as Eurydice and soprano Angela Cadelago as L’Amour.

José Luis Moscovich will conduct the orchestra, and José Maria Condemi will direct the stage action. This opera’s extensive ballet episodes have been choreographed by Yannis Adoniou, the sets designed by Jean-François Revon, the lighting/video effects by Lucas Benjamin Krech and the costumes by Miller James.

There will be two performances, both in the Lobero Theatre, at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, April 27, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 29.

Discussions of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice tend to start in the wrong place and to stress the wrong points, before wandering off into esoteric discussions of operatic construction in the mid-18th century. The ravishing beauty, the sheer sublimity, of the score are brought in, if at all, as an afterthought. When I am listening to it, the opera’s function, as a vehicle of Gluck’s “reforms” of serious opera, matters as little to me as the libretto’s infidelity to the mythological truth of the story. I don’t find the happy ending cheap or offensive; I am delighted and exhilarated by it.

If you have a profound turn of mind, there is plenty in the music to engage your deepest meditations; if you are free of such considerations, there are more than enough straightforward pleasures to keep you in an unreasonably happy state. Nowhere will you find a score, in William Shakespeare’s words, so “full of sounds and sweet airs/ That give delight and hurt not.”

Soprano Marnie Breckenridge
Soprano Marnie Breckenridge

“Most performances at the Opéra,” Hector Berlioz wrote of his youthful musical passions, “were solemn ceremonies for which I prepared myself diligently by reading and pondering the work in question. I and a few of the pit regulars were fanatics for our favorite composers. The admiration we professed for them was equaled only by our abomination of the rest. The Jove of our Olympus was Gluck. The most passionate music lover of today can have no conception how fiercely we worshipped him. But if some of my companions were zealous adherents of the faith, I can say in all modesty that I was its high priest.”

One has only to hear any given passage in Orphée et Eurydice to comprehend perfectly Berlioz’s devotion.

Single tickets to Orpheus and Eurydice are $28 to $128. To purchase tickets, click here or call the Lobero box office at 805.963.0761.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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