|Public Opinion||Rosemary Hayes|
|John Styx||John Coleman|
in the Arcadia Health Spa
Enough of nectar and ambrosia, off to hell on holiday!
Jupiter, disguised as a fly, has found Eurydice through the keyhole
the CAN CAN
According to Greek legend, Orpheus went down to the underworld, where he persuaded Hades to let him have back his wife Eurydice. Hades told him that she would follow him back to Earth so long as he did not look back. He did look back and he lost her again.
Offenbach's Operetta Orpheus in the Underworld varies the story: Orpheus has no desire for Eurydice but the underworld is a wonderful place full of enjoyment where everybody dances the Can-Can. And although he turns back, well, the ending is not quite the same as the legend.
Surrey Opera will present the opera in a modern English translation. It will be conducted by the artistic director, Jonathan Butcher and directed by Mark Hathaway.
THIS was Orpheus with a difference! In fact, SURREY Opera's version bore little relationship with the more familiar stage plot and even less to the myth as set out in the program.
The Underworld to which Pluto took Eurydice was the basement of the Arcadia Health Spa, complete with washing machines and a laundry chute down which came the dirty towels from the gym, pool and sauna upstairs.
Fortunately, Offenbach's music remained unchanged and, presumably, so did all the words to them, though with opera it is not always possible to follow the story when it is being performed at full power with an orchestra.
It wa a magnificent production despite the updated story line and, as always, Jonathan Butcher had tuned the singing and the musicians to perfection.
Costumes were modern dress: leotards and shorts, dressing gowns and towels and, in the case of the Graves Dancers, dressing gowns and some very modern underwear revealed when they threw them off for the Can Can.
Eurydice, played by Jane Streeton, was the receptionist at the Health Spa and was having trouble with her philandering husband Orpheus, who is a composer and runs classes for students of the violin.
Tom Ruskin was excellent in the part and if he wasn't actually playing the violin he had been wonderfully tutored so that he appeared to be doing so. [he was - RFH]
Eurydice is having an affair with Pluto (Paul Sheehan), an instructor in aerobics (the chorus should have lost a bit of weight by the time the tour is finished), and she decides to leave her husband and go off with Pluto.
They exit by diving down the dirty linen shute leading to the basement, which in this story is the Underworld, instead of Hades in the original (Pluto is in fact the devil).
Meanwhile, on the upper floor of the Spa, all the gods are in the Olympus Beauty Suite having massage, manicures, face packs etc. and as it is very foggy we might assume there is a sauna somewhere.
Alexander Main-Ian who is 11 made an excellent Cupid, equipped not with a bow and arrow but a water pistol.
Jupiter, magnificently sung by Tim Baldwin, is brought a message by Mercury (Simon Carvery) advising him of Pluto's wicked deed in luring Eurydice down to his lair.
Jupiter rushes off to save her and finds her very bored in a four poster bed in the basement attended by Pluto's servant Styx, a fine performance by John Coleman.
Everybody else from upstairs arrives and a wild party gets under way: plenty of food and wine and the Can Can dancers do their piece.
Orpheus arrives to try and save his wife and is told that he will have to lead her out without looking back. Unfortunately he does so and so she has to spend the rest of eternity in the Basement.
The transformation to the present day worked fairly well, though it was helpful to know the original story to be able to follow the basic plot.
Sound control was excellent except at the beginning when the narrator, Public Opinion played by Rosemary Hayes, had her `setting the scene' drowned out by the music.
The production moves over to the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks, where it runs until Saturday, February 16.
Last modified 25th March 2002
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