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Orpheus Loves Eurydice

Milwaukee Opera Theatre explores the undying myth

Jan. 22, 2014
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At the death of his adored Eurydice, the musician Orpheus breached the Underworld. He sang about love so beautifully that Hades let Eurydice return to life provided Orpheus refrained from looking at her on the way back. The artist failed. The beloved died.

That may be art’s truest subject. Three years ago, Milwaukee Opera Theatre partnered with Carroll University to create an interdisciplinary performance inspired by the inexhaustible myth. The wealth and quality of the art generated by students and professionals over three years demanded a festival as its climax. The Eurydice Festival will include four music-theater works, four visual art exhibits and some surprise events. With treats to eat along the way, audiences will journey through the hallways, chapel, basement and theaters of Carroll’s Ottesan and Humphrey buildings during a two-and-a-half-hour event on Jan. 24-25.

Three local composers whose works in progress were introduced last season were newly commissioned to complete their works. Joel Boyd chose to orchestrate his three-person chamber opera, The Crawling Dove, for the seven-piece East Side Chamber Players. In Boyd’s contemporary adaptation of the poet Virgil’s telling, the jealous beekeeper Aristaeus causes Eurydice’s death in a car accident on the day she is to marry Orpheus. The festival will present the opera’s first full staging under MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik.

Nathan Wesselowski added songs to his meditative Eurydice, now a seven-song cycle for two sopranos and piano. With an autobiographical text by the poet H.D. (1886-1961), both singers represent the twice-dying lover in a mirror-like way as she travels her dark path. Audiences can Go To Hades twice for separate immersive experiences fashioned by students and director Danny Brylow with music for tenor, soprano and electric guitar by Joanna Kerner. Alternately, they may lose themselves in the hallway’s “visual gardens.”

The festival features a 30-minute excerpt from Ricky Ian Gordon’s celebrated Orpheus and Eurydice, an outpouring from Gordon on his partner’s death from AIDS. Ruth Brown sings Eurydice and Catey Ott will dance the tale. Jon Lovas’ clarinet represents Orpheus. Carroll’s James Zager directs. He and Ponasik co-conceived this entire generous undertaking.

Performances begin at Carroll University’s Otteson Theatre (238 N. East Ave., Waukesha) at 7 p.m., Jan. 24, and 3 p.m., Jan. 25. A pre-show talk with cast and composers precedes the Jan. 25 performance. For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit milwaukeeoperatheatre.org.


Symphony Sundays Resume in 2014

Festival City Symphony resumes its Symphony Sundays series with “A Celebration of Spirit,” Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. Included are Gioachino Rossini’s overture to The Thieving Magpie, Robert Schumann’s “Concert Piece for Four Horns” and Sergei Prokofieff’s Symphony No. 5. Tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children, students and seniors; call 414-365-8861 or visit festivalcitysymphony.org. (Selena Milewski)


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