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Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte made a stunning debut in Atlanta Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice Nov. 14, more than holding her own in a cast that included the inimitable American countertenor, David Daniels, as Orfeo and mezzo Deanne Meek as Amore. A compelling vocal and dramatic presence, Whyte was particularly affecting in Euridice's moments of incomprehension while being led out of the underworld by her seemingly indifferent husband. This is an emotionally complicated part of the action, and both singing actors were totally convincing, thanks to the strong yet nuanced direction of Lillian Groag and the delicate but powerful conducting of Harry Bicket. The Atlanta Opera Chorus, prepared by long-time Chorus Master Walter Huff, was exemplary in its clarity of enunciation and its theatrically and musically effective performance, whether as the writhing, tormented Furies or the peacefully laboring Blessed Spirits. The simple but flexible set, designed for Glimmerglass Opera by John Conklin, allowed the action to move with ease and without interruption between the piece's different worlds. The director's most interesting interpretive coup was the use of two dancers at the end, after Amore has reversed the myth's tragic second death of Euridice and reunited the lovers. The dancers entertain the assembled celebrants by miming in dance the story we have just witnessed. But just as we get to the moment when Amore would have intervened, she refuses, and leaves the stage. The dance ends and Euridice remains dead on the stage. Dual spotlights on the separated dancers and the united singers literally highlight the reality that, while the operatic convention of the "lieto fine" or happy ending may have required Love to reward sincere mourning and marital devotion, the original myth (which Gluck's audience would have known) was not so kind.

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Author:Hutcheon, Michael; Hutcheon, Linda
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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