Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Director's Note for Orpheus and Eurydice


Learn more about Stage Director Chía Patiño's concept for Orpheus and Eurydice, her doubts about Orpheus's heroism, and what this story has to teach us about love, loss, and letting go.

The only certainty in life is death. But having fallen in love with life, we try to ignore that looming shadow; for those in love, death is just a word. Yet all of us are powerless before the three Fates: Clotho, who spins life’s thread; Lachesis, who measures out every person’s span; and the inflexible Atropos, who ends each life by cutting the thread. In this opera, we join Orpheus at the very moment when Atropos cuts his beloved Eurydice’s thread, shattering his dreams. For Orpheus, confronting his destiny is not heroic: it is human. We identify with his journey and we want him to succeed: everyone dreams of rescuing our loved ones from death.

His only weapon on this quest is a gift from the gods: his music. With it, he sings, cries, and seduces as he faces his fate. Amore (Love) proposes the journey and sets the conditions, which Orpheus only accepts with a sense of foreboding: “It is forbidden to look at Eurydice until you leave the underworld, nor can you explain this prohibition, or you will lose her again, forever.” And so, the underworld shakes and trembles as our hero advances to confront his Fate. With his voice Orpheus, an inspiration to all musicians, triumphs as he seduces the frightful Furies with the sadness of his songs. The doors open and he enters the Elysian Fields. For a moment, he enters a world of which we dream as we face death—a place of pure sky, clear sunlight, and serene light. It is here that a radiant Eurydice emerges, and the Fates put her life in Orpheus’s hands.

Our hero takes her and valiantly begins to climb back toward the world of life. As he anticipated, Eurydice, denied the sight of—or even a glance from—her lover, doubts, trembles, suffers, and hesitates to follow. After her only aria “Che fiero momento, che barbara sorte,” exhausted and defeated, she sits in the darkness. Orpheus, already seeing the light at the end of his journey, turns back to look at Eurydice and thus loses her forever. Here’s where I question whether Orpheus is really a ‘hero.’ He descends in search of “the object of my affection”—these are his words. When he finds her, she is in a paradise. And, at that moment, he mercilessly drags her away, seeking only his own happiness.

I believe our human condition makes it impossible for us to accept “premature” death. We attempt endlessly to extend the thread of life, but all our efforts are useless. We would do the impossible, if we were to bring back loved ones back to this world. We cry. We pray. We promise. All in vain. It has been two years since death’s shadow covered the whole planet. We all know the cruelty of solitude, of not being able to say goodbye to those we love; so we identify immediately with Orpheus. Therefore, we uphold Orpheus’s quest. We confront the disappearance of our loved ones and rebel against the Fates. We hope and wish for a few more moments—enough time to embrace them, feel them happy, and in peace. Closure. Our destiny is to love someone so much that we let them go to find their peace. Orpheus laments Eurydice’s death, confronts his solitude, raises his eyes, and faces life again. And wherever Eurydice is, I am sure she will listen and smile.

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