Rhinegold Photo credit: Monika Rittershaus
Going all out to entertain: the cast of Orphée aux enfers at the Salzburg Festival

Francis Muzzu

DVD of the Month: Orpheus in the Underworld

12:03, 4th August 2020

Barry Kosky seizes Orphée aux enfers and gives it a good directorial shake – already mad, he makes it madder.  His production was filmed at the Salzburg Festival last year and seems to go down well with the audience; it certainly made me laugh out loud many times.  I don’t know whether it was lack of faith in his international cast’s ability to master the dialogue or an overarching directorial decision, but all the dialogue is given in German and by the same actor, Max Hopp, who is integrated into the action while the singers mouth their spoken lines but sing their music in French.  Kosky apparently got the idea when watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, with its lip syncing drag queens).  It is a true tour de force – Hopp’s comic timing is immaculate and he not only has complex conversations in many different voices with himself but also provides a wide range of sound effects.  His performance alone is worth watching the film for – the rehearsals must have been endless and I am surprised that the cast doesn’t corpse at times, but probably sheer energy keeps everyone going, one slip and the effect would be ruined.

In the pit, Enrique Mazzola keeps everything on the boil.  Perhaps things are a bit too exaggerated at times, but it’s a case of go big or go home.  Kosky’s direction will entrance or infuriate, but I doubt a viewer won’t have an opinion.  He essentially tears into the characters, everyone is larger than life, the satire is ramped up, the entire world is a mad creation, nothing is realistic and nothing is simple – gender is but a construct, is Marcel Beekman’s Pluton/Aristée a man or woman, or even human? And the can-can revelations will have your eyes out on stalks.

The cast goes all out to entertain, and their physicality is endless.  new mother Kathryn Lewek, cast as Eurydice (left) , called out some reviewers at the time for body-shaming what she called her ‘mom bod’.  All I can say is I hope they never see me in a corset, romping around the stage and having sex with everybody.  (Actually, I can promise that nobody will ever see that.)  She is endlessly energetic , looks great and sings like a dream.   A fabulous performance.  Joel Prieto is suitably annoying as Orphée and also embraces Kosky’s concept with gusto – in fact the whole ensemble does, there isn’t a weak link.  I cannot recommend this Orphée enough: it is thought provoking, entertaining, controversial and hilarious, and I’d like to think that Offenbach would approve.

 

 

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