Opening of ‘Eurydice’ by Aucoin at the Met
New York – While Erin Morley sang on the stage of the Great at the Metropolitan Opera, Matthew Aucoin sat in the front row of the orchestra, his score in front of him, taking notes.
Unlike most of her performances, Morley can use rehearsals to suggest that notes be modified to fit her sopranos.
Known primarily for Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, and Strauss, the Met is offering the company’s three premieres from 21st century business this season. Aucoin’s “Eurydice,” inspired by Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 play, opened Tuesday night for the first of seven shows that ran through December 16. Britt Dean’s “Hamlet” will be released in May.
Aucoin and Roll were paired by the composer’s sister, playwright Christine Aucoin, and Andre Bishop, artistic director of Lincoln Center Theatre, who commissioned the piece as part of her new joint business program with the Met.
Boston-born Aucoin composed “Orvik Moments,” a 15-minute work, by contender Anthony Ruth Costanzo that premiered in 2016.
“Writing it kind of sparked me creatively, so I thought ‘I want to go deeper here,’ but I didn’t really want to spend two and a half hours delving into male artistic narcissism, so Andre said, ‘You have to call Sarah Rule.'”
Aucoin and Rolle met for lunch in a Manhattan restaurant and decided to adapt Ruhl’s modern account of the myth focusing on Eurydice’s point of view, rather than Orpheus going down to Hades to save her.
Practical versions included Monteverde’s “L’Orfeo” from 1607, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice from 1762 and Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers from 1858, with the famous “Can Can”. Recent renditions have included Philip Glass’s “Orphée” in 1993 and Anais Mitchell’s hit musical “Hadestown,” which opened on Broadway in 2019.
“It’s catnip for composers, isn’t it?” Aucoin said. “It’s kind of saying that music can beat death, but humans will always spoil it. It’s kind of saying we don’t deserve music, and so I think it captures something really fundamental, which is that music is human and more than human.”
Ruhl wrote the script, Aucoin composed 2016-19 and the work premiered at LA Opera on February 1, 2020. Starring Danielle De Nessie and baritone Nathan Berg replacing Rod Gilvary as Eurydice’s father. Baritone holdovers include Joshua Hopkins (Orpheus) and Tenor Barry Banks (Hades).
“I think Sarah’s play is much more, much more than a mere reimagining of a myth,” Aucoin said. “The myth is part of the play, but it’s really an autobiographical deeply into the psyche of a young woman.”
The Met returned from the longest shutdown in its 138-year history when it opened the season with Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” from 2019, the first act of a black composer. Brett Dean’s “Hamlet,” which opened at Britain’s Glendbourne Festival in 2017, follows in May, and next season includes “The Hours” by Kevin Potts with Renee Fleming and 2023-24 featuring Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm’s “X.”
Now 31 and a resident of Stamford, Vermont, Aucoin didn’t listen to former Orpheus operas until after his work was first shown.
Morley, 41, first looked at the lush tonal result three years ago after she got a call from the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb.
“I told him I thought the role hadn’t been fully tailored to fit my voice yet,” she recalls. And he said. That’s why we work with live composers. “
Aucoin shifted notes up the register, a process that continued through the drills. Between accepting the role and now, Morley became the superstar at the Met At-Home Gala Zoom, accompanies herself on piano in “Chacun le sait (Everyone Knows It)” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment (Daughter of Vogue).
“There are definitely challenges,” she said a few days before the opening. “One of them is that there’s no benchmarking. I didn’t hear the coordination in all its glory until last week.” “There is a lot of variation in the role. There are all these kinds of sections that are full of chatter, and then there are moments of intense lyricism. And all the rhythms are very complex, and that takes a long time.”
Aucoin and Ruhl created an accessible mix of myth, fantasy, and humor.
“I think that’s really what 21st century opera should be,” Morley said. “It has to be warm. Even if it’s tragic, it must be beautiful. I’ve said long ago that one of the pets that bothers me about contemporary music is that it’s There is no place for comedy. What I am happy to see in Matt and Sarah’s work is that tragedy and comedy can live in the same space.”
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