Don't look back: Greek myth, Italian style

Christoph Willibald Gluck was a typical overachiever, you might say. He wrote Orpheus and Eurydice, one of the best-known operas of the 18th century, twice in Italian in 1762 and then again in French in 1774. Based on the Greek myth about two fated lovers, it tells the story of Eurydice’s untimely death and of Orpheus’ quest to bring her back to the world of the living by visiting the Underworld.
Moved by Orpheus’s obvious deep love for his beloved, Hades, the Lord of Death, ultimately agrees to allow Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of the Underworld, but warns him not to look back to see her until he has reached the land of the living again. You can probably guess how the plot plays out, even if you are not familiar with the story.
Charlottesville native Margaret Bell produces and directs the opera for a one-weekend run which opens this week. Bell has performed as a singer in many venues and has a passion for opera. She has secured two recent Juilliard graduates, mezzo-soprano Brenda Patterson and soprano Sarah Wolfson, for the title roles. The cast also includes several local performers and television’s Lauren Ambrose– an actress who appears in HBO’s popular series Six Feet Under—who’s a soprano soloist in the production’s chorus.
The New York Times has praised Brenda Patterson’s suppleness and drama, and Opera News commented on her commanding voice. The Washington Post called Sarah Wolfson a “fresh, young, well-trained voice.” She has also been described in Opera News as “a pleasure to see and hear.” New Yorker Lydia Brown takes on the role of musical director, and the voices are accompanied by an ensemble of piano, flute, and a string quartet.
The production design also includes four original pieces of art by local painter Trisha Orr.
Given the overwhelmingly talented cast and the collection of artists who have contributed to the creation of this project, these two performances have the makings of a “not-to-be-missed” spring event. You may want to call early for your tickets.

Orpheus and Eurydice plays Thursday, May 1, and Saturday, May 3, at the Dickinson Theater, Piedmont Virginia Community College, 501 College Drive. 8pm. Tickets prices range from $5-20 and may be reserved by calling 293-5950.