By Vaughn Mauren
Granted, there were many peculiar choices in the production itself. Chief among them was that the magnificent chorus sat on three tiers of glorified choir risers for the entire opera, nervously sitting still as the risers were wheeled into various configurations by stage hands who, between tasks, sat on stage looking dejected.
Even still, we thought it odd that in the midst of a tender recitative in which Orfeo stood starkly alone on stage bearing his soul, a four-story metal staircase was lowered from the rafters. The staircase hit the floor with a loud clang, teetered back and forth as chorus and conductor appeared arrested, and was promptly retracted. You could almost hear the production crew nervously ask, “no one saw that, right?”
Then came the next scene. As Orfeo tried to lead Euridice out of Underworld, the fine mezzo-soprano stopped singing in the middle of a phrase. The conductor stopped the orchestra, the rotating set began swiveling toward stage right, the curtain lowered, and the audience sat in silence. General Manager Peter Gelb informed us that “a performer was in distress.” But I did wonder if this was actually true given that all three principals reappeared ten minutes later, as did the entire chorus and the dancers. Perhaps Peter wouldn’t admit that his production staff was in the midst of a collective brain aneurism.
The lesson here is that no amount of resources or rehearsal time ensures perfection. Pastors, priests, choristers, acolytes, and volunteers try their best. Our job is to take it on the chin enjoy telling the story for years to come because the show must always go on.