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Orpheus Ascending

Marigny Opera Ballet Makes a Winning Return to 'Orfeo'



The Marigny Opera Ballet ends its third season this weekend with a reprise of “Orfeo,” choreographer Maya Taylor’s visual retelling of the story of star-crossed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. Featuring Taylor’s choreography set to original music composed by Tucker Fuller, the ballet’s original run in 2015 was met with sold-out crowds. NoDef was in attendance for the final dress rehearsal ahead of Friday night’s opening at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.). The company’s three-night-only return to the Greek myth is a wholly compelling, powerful performance guaranteed to repeat the same success.

 

The two-act ballet explores the centuries-old love story between Orpheus/Orfeo, the son of Apollo, and mortal Eurydice, whose wedded bliss is cut short when she is bitten by a poisonous serpent and sent to the Underworld. The entire second act focuses of Orfeo’s efforts to rescue his bride from Pluto and Proserpina, the King and Queen of the Underworld. As the tale goes, Orfeo wins the right to take Eurydice back to the land of the living, but his look back at his wife causes the spirits of the dead to drag her into hell again for all eternity. 

 

At its heart, the myth expounds the power of the artist. Orpheus, who possesses the power to charm all living creatures with his music, travels with gilded lyre in hand to save Eurydice and successfully softens the hearts of the King and Queen of the Underworld. The live musical accompaniment to “Orfeo,” performed by the New Resonance Orchestra with Francis Scully as conductor, functions as a Greek chorus of sorts. The thirteen-piece orchestra acts in service to the action on stage as well as molding the emotions of each scene — nurturing each moment of affection between the lovers, heightening the terror as Eurydice is pulled back into the depths of the Underworld. 

 

 

Perhaps most fitting for the story’s ode to the power of art, “Orfeo” successfully showcases the expressive power of dance in communion with live music and the performers’ near-theatrical expressions of drama that plays out on each of their faces. Lauren Guynes, the female lead of “Orfeo,” found the experience one that demanded a myriad of artistic capabilities. “At first, I approached the part from the perspective of dance,” she said. “To see how movement could tell this myth. But as we went on, Maya [Taylor] encouraged us to carefully think about our characters, explore what they would be thinking and feeling. It’s such an emotional story, and it’s challenging at times to exist within that tragedy — even if for an hour.” 

 

Guynes, a pixie Cyd Charisse in appearance, takes on the doomed wood nymph alongside fellow newcomer Joshua Bell in the role of Orfeo. In her first season with the Marigny Opera Ballet, she is a delight to watch each moment she is on stage. Her Eurydice flutters with excitement over the all-consuming nature of youth and affection. Bell moves with confidence, as much in command of his dance as Orfeo is of his lyre. The pair moves fluidly and eagerly together, sharing a believable performance of budding love. 

 

 

Edward Spots performs the dual roles of the Serpent and Pluto, King of the Underworld. He is a spectacular performer to watch, effortlessly moving from a teasingly evil dance at the end of the first act before commanding the attention fit of royalty throughout the entire second act. The sparring dance between Spots as Pluto and Bell in particular is arresting. The role of Proserpina will be split between two performers — Kellis McSparring Oldenburg, who originated the role during the 2015 run, will perform the Friday and Sunday shows. Gretchen Erickson, who took the role during the dress rehearsal and set to take the role Saturday night, is a performer of absolute ferocious intensity. Returning from the original run in addition to Oldenburg and Erickson are Ashlie Russell and John Bozeman. Newcomer Christian Delery completes the cast.

 

 

For choreographer Maya Taylor, this mix of returning players and newcomers to the company created a unique sense of energy to the production that strengthened the ballet, while also giving the story of Orfeo a whole new life. “It feels very different from the last run, because our chemistry is so different. New interpretations are being brought to the roles, new shades are brought to the story.” Taylor noted the show will go through another rebirth when the curtains open Friday evening. “Show energy is so different than rehearsal energy,” she said. “The way the audience reacts to the performance, it creates something completely different.” 

 

It is a bittersweet moment for Taylor, as the final performance of “Orfeo” also marks the end of her time as the Marigny Opera Ballet’s choreographer and rehearsal director. “I always tell the dancers that by the time we get to the performance, it is in their hands,” she shared just hours before Friday’s opening. “I’m excited, I have butterflies in my stomach. But this show is theirs now.” 

 

"Orfeo," Marigny Opera Ballet

Tickets: $35 General / $25 Students

Friday (4.14), 8PM

Saturday (4.15), 8PM

Sunday (4.16), 8PM

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

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Michael Weber, B.A.

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Linzi Falk

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Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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