This is the third revival of Karole Armitage's direction of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples (the previous ones took place in 2003 and 2008). The director confirmed the typical traits of her styled interpretation, which is in line with a consolidated tradition as regards Gluck’s masterpiece: choreography and staging are not separable, and not only because the director is a choreographer and this azione teatrale contains a considerable quantity of ballet.

Cinzia Forte (Euridice) and Daniela Barcellona (Orfeo) © Teatro di San Carlo
Cinzia Forte (Euridice) and Daniela Barcellona (Orfeo)
© Teatro di San Carlo

As a matter of fact, Gluck’s Orfeo represents quite a logical choice for choreographers as, along with the introduction of new emotional authenticity in vocal parts, he also included two dances in his score, the “Dance of the Furies” and the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits”, which are not embellishments nor superfluous intermissions; they are just as central to the work as the music and the libretto, and are directly related to the characters and situations.  

In Armitage’s production, the two main characters are mirrored by a couple of dancers, and they themselves move with the poetic grace and elegance of dancers. The director, with the aid of a neat, bare set and an attractive use of colours and lights, has choreographed each and every minimal movements for the singers to emotionally double the dancers. The resulting performance appears rich, smooth and moving.

In the opera, all the voices are female: a mezzo (Orfeo) and two sopranos (Euridice and Amore). The chorus plays an important role in the action, and when onstage, they were mixed with the numerous dancers, and were dressed alike. Francesco Ommassini showed himself to be a fine Gluck conductor, getting rid of any remainders of reverence, in order to release the emotional power hidden under Gluck’s classical mantle. He led sensitively, serving the needs of both singers and dancers.

<i>Orfeo ed Euridice</i> © Teatro di San Carlo
Orfeo ed Euridice
© Teatro di San Carlo

Mezzo Daniela Barcellona's Orfeo was confidently and movingly sung; she fitted this production perfectly. She was on stage throughout, expressing every emotion with silent grace and power. Cinzia Forte’s Eurydice was lovely, a perfect match for Barcellona. Forte is an eclectic soprano, easily ranging from early music to contemporary roles and her Eurydice combined dramatic awareness to voice quality. Giuseppina Bridelli was at her ease as Amore; hers was a shining interpretation, finely sung sung and superbly acted.

Costumes by Peter Speliopoulos and sets by Brice Marden were simple (there was not a single prop on stage) yet evocative. The San Carlo Choir played and sang nicely throughout and received huge acclaim, as did the singers, orchestra and the conductor.