“L’Orfeo” Review by Matt Johnson
A review of the upcoming “L’Orfea” Performance by Imaginary Landscapes and the Circus School of Lancaster on June 23 here at Tellus360. Tickets can be purchased online, seating is limited.
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“The mythical story of Orpheus in Hades is one of the most borrowed works in the history of all art-forms. It was the subject of what we think to be the very first opera and one of the most recognizable pieces in all of classical music: the “Can-Can Dance”, a deceptively light-hearted moment from “Orpheus in the Underworld.”
The myth follows a pretty standard Greek trajectory; a boy-meets-girl story that breaks down quickly into an exploration of the comic frailty of mortal desires as they bump against the constraints of the possible. Orpheus (or in the original Greek, Orfeo) falls for the beautiful Euridice, and they are married. No sooner have they consummated their relationship when she is killed by a poisonous snake and taken to the Underworld. Full of profound grief, Orpheus seeks to defy the natural order of the world, conquer death and bring his lover back from a place from which no one returns. What happens in the end—well, like most myths, depends on who is telling the story. Which brings me to the point of this blog post: to tell you about an amazing, absolutely-can’t-miss performance in Tellus’ aptly named “Temple” on June 23rd that takes the myth and kaleidoscopes it through the collective imagination of some of Lancaster’s most talented musicians, dancers and stage performers.
“L’Orfeo”, by Lancaster-based troupe “Imaginary Landscapes”, is the newest, and potentially the strangest, iteration of the Orpheus myth. The story of the doomed lovers is told by dancers and circus performers (from The Lancaster Circus School), set to a carefully improvised score featuring piano, bass, cello and other timbral miscellany. By design and by artistic intent, no two performances will (or could) be the same.
Like the old metaphysical puzzle about the grandfather’s pipe (skip outside the parentheses if you don’t want to go down a rabbit hole: Imagine I’m given a pipe by my grandfather which his grandfather gave to him and so on… by the time it reaches me, every single piece of the original pipe has been replaced due to the wear and tear of time, and yet I still want to assert that the object before me really is my great-great-great-great grandfather’s pipe. But is it? ) , musical director Jesse Clark maintains that despite the free-for-all nature of the music, there is a central thread that makes the piece both self-identical and radically different. Each musician occupies a determined spot in the development of the score, but the free reign of expression means that they don’t fall into a predestined mold. Similarly, the stage performers have been instructed to capture vague, but archetypal motions, in a gorgeously under-determined rendering of the myth. The performance exists somewhere between these extremes of fixity and fluidity, evoking a sense of cosmic balance between Apollo, the God of order and light, and Bacchus, the God of drunkenness and chaos. And it’s fun as hell.
It comes to Tellus360 for one night only. You can (and should) grab tickets here:
While the show doesn’t start in earnest until 8:00, doors open at 6:30 and you’ll want to come early. We ask that you enter through the basement. Hang out in An Sibin, the Underworld Speakeasy, grab a drink, and prepare yourself for potentially the most singular performance you’ve seen anywhere in Lancaster.”
– Matt Johnson