A dark, round wall opens up and you see the body of a train, such an international one to Germany. The speed of the train shows itself in projected streaks of light. When the train opens, you will find yourself in a dining car.
A woman sits at the bar with her head resting on one hand. It is Eurydice, the girl who dies twice in Greek myth. The first time through a poisonous snakebite, the second through the well-meaning of her beloved Orpheus: looking after her was exactly what he should avoid.
On Saturday evening, the world premiere of . will be played at Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam Eurydice – Die Liebenden, blind, and a three-act play by the German composer Manfred Trojahn (72). In his opera it is not a snake but a train that takes Eurydice to death, and Eurydice is not a young girl but a woman with a past and ex-lovers. Soprano Julia Kleiter makes her sound firm and mature, but also a bit despondent, because she has taken an irreversible path.
Eurydice and Orpheus fall in love instantly on the train. But Pluto, a role by a grim Thomas Oliemans, puts a stop to that. The ruler of the realm of the dead takes on the guises of Eurydice’s exes and has them disrupt the early contact as waiter and conductor.
How layered this reading of the myth is, so unequivocal is Christof Hetzer’s decor: first the train as contemporary and then the boat as a classic means of transport to the underworld. The Orpheus of the expressive Tyrolean baritone Andrè Schuen is strong and boyish. Captivated by love, he follows Eurydice on the boat. There it is Pluto’s wife Proserpina (by the creamy mezzo-soprano Katia Ledoux), who wants to stop Orpheus from going after his sweetheart.
Pluto looks at it with sorrow. Could it be because he’s jealous? But doesn’t he want Eurydice too? The audience sees the answers falling between two stools. Meanwhile, a flute and low strings sound detached and at the same time fathomlessly deep.
Erik Nielsen swears by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in the atonal, ethereal and rhythmically complicated parts. These are the sounds of the realm of the dead, where chromaticism reigns above ground. The vocals are characterized by large jumps, which requires great flexibility from the soloists.
In the end, you are left with so many questions that, according to dramaturg Klaus Bertisch, should be answered. Was Eurydice headed for a new beginning in death? Or was it just Pluto she desired? The love between Orpheus and her is doomed, but who cares if they meet again on the other side?
All the while, Trojahn lets Orpheus and Eurydice communicate past each other like blind people. He sings for love, she longs for death. The whispering madrigal singers of the choir of DNO have an invisible but effective part; it makes the realm of the dead even more dead – the fly that you first saw buzzing around as a projection is now huge and dead on its back. Here it is Orpheus who collapses in the arms of Eurydice.
Her closing monologue is on the long side and does not add much more, nor does it arouse extra sympathy for her. The myth in a 2.0 version is still not the answer to questions and matters of the heart. Eventually the curtain falls and you are still groping in the dark. But there is no script for love.
Opera Forward Festival
The Opera Forward Festival was founded in 2015 by Pierre Audi, then still artistic director of Dutch National Opera. The festival offers a stage to young makers and contemporary music theatre. On Saturday March 12, the world premiere of I Have Missed You Forever, a creation by Lisenka Heijboer Castañón and Manoj Kamps, among others. In addition, panel discussions and installations can be seen in various rooms.
Eurydice – Die Liebenden, blind
By Manfred Trojan. By Dutch National Opera and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Erik Nielsen.
5/3, Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam. The Opera Forward Festival is still on 11 and 12/3.