Theater archives

Rinde Eckert Bleeds Romance from the Myth in Orpheus X


Writing a chamber opera called Orpheus X, turning the Greek tale into the story of a rock star, and casting yourself as the rock star? Not the humblest of moves for avant-composer Rinde Eckert. This Orpheus’s humility has vanished into the grave with Eurydice (Suzan Hanson). His grief is childish; he demands her return like DJ Lady Starlight demanding hedgehogs in her rider. Yet O’s sullenness isn’t the only unpleasant dash of pragmatism here in an otherwise gorgeous mise-en-scène, primarily the effect of Denise Marika’s sensuous video projections and David Zinn’s post-industrial set, in a production directed by Robert Woodruff. Surrounded by Eckert’s difficult, alternately cool and annoying music, Orpheus hits a lot of dissonant emotional notes. He dryly lists the possessions Eurydice left behind—”keys, junk, a book of stamps . . .”—and recalls her final wardrobe in excess detail—”a pale green dress with a subtle pattern of white flowers.” Thereby, Eckert bleeds all the romance out of the myth. Orpheus sings of Eurydice’s death like a police report, and she resents his amazing reversal of her fate, whining, “Did you think I would welcome a rescue?” It’s not difficult to see why the mournful Persephone (John Kelly) steals the loveliest moments away from this couple from Hell.