The Rapidian

Opera Grand Rapids gives Midwest premiere of Gluck's 'Orfeo ed Euridice'

Grand Rapids Symphony and Hope College's H2 Dance Company join together to perform Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurydice"
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Opera Grand Rapids presents Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurydice"

Opera Grand Rapids presents Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurydice" /Opera Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Symphony collaborates to perform Gluck's 1774 Paris opera.

Grand Rapids Symphony collaborates to perform Gluck's 1774 Paris opera. /Grand Rapids Symphony

Tenor Zach Finkelstein and soprano Clara Rottsolk star as Orpheus and Eurydice.

Tenor Zach Finkelstein and soprano Clara Rottsolk star as Orpheus and Eurydice. /Opera Grand Rapids

Performing new music is an important part of the mission of any orchestra – even when the music is new because it’s old.

Grand Rapids Symphony joins Opera Grand Rapids this weekend to give the Midwest premiere of an opera that’s more than 240 years old.

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurydice,” a ground-breaking work that would influence opera composers for the next 100 years, opens tonight in the DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School.

Maestro Timothy Nelson conducts the Grand Rapids Symphony for two performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday April 8-9, 2016.

“What makes ‘Orphée’ so amazing, if you take out the dance music, it's 90 minutes of music straight through. It's just incredibly beautiful," Nelson told Broadway World in March.

The mythological tale is the story of Orpheus, whose beloved Eurydice is claimed by death, leading the legendary musician to venture into Hades to return her to the land of the living.

Opera Grand Rapids’ production of an ancient story, composed in the classical era, costumed in modern dress, transcends time. With minimal sets and lights, the Italian opera with a French libretto by a German composer transcends space and cultural as well.

“Gluck is showing things for how simple they are – three characters, terribly direct, and a story of what happens when you suffer a great loss,” Nelson said. “My vision is to keep it as simple as possible – to make it timeless, and to bring out everything in it to convey its universality.”

Orpheus is played by American-Canadian Zach Finkelstein, a haute-contre tenor, a rare, high tenor voice that was favored in the French baroque and classical era.

Sopranos Clara Rottsolk appears as Eurydice and as Chelsea Morris Shephard as the goddess of love, Amour. The production includes choreography and dance by Hope College's H2 Dance Company with members of Opera Grand Rapids Chorus singing as well as participating in the choreography.

In the United States, the only known productions of “Orphée et Eurydice” have been performed in New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle previously.

Tickets begin at $25. Student tickets are $5. Call Opera Grand Rapids Box Office, at (616) 451-2741, or Ticketmaster outlets.

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