Often and justifiably cited as the first music-drama, Gluck’s Orpheus and Euridice conveys an emotional poignancy and simple nobility that is true to the classic myth. In contrast to the convention-laden opera seria, which had degenerated into silly spectacles or florid vehicles for flighty castrati, the characters and situations in Orpheus are sharply and intelligently delineated. Its music may sound decorous and stylized to modern ears accustomed to Wagner, but back then it was every bit as revolutionary as Tristan und Isolde. With the exceptions of the dull overture and the tacked-on happy ending, in which Amor restores Euridice to life, this is opera at its most enchanting and transcendent–as any opera about the power of music should be. When staged and sung right, Orpheus can be a dazzling blend of theater, music, and dance. The Chicago Opera Theater production (in English) promises to be one, what with an excellent cast (Jennifer Jones and Joyce Guyer in the title roles), one of the best American opera conductors (Steven Larsen) at the helm, and dances choreographed by Evanston-based Lynda Martha. One added attraction: sets designed (her only work for the stage) in 1984 by the high priestess of American sculpture, Louise Nevelson. Saturday, 8 PM, Sunday, 3 PM, Wednesday, 7:30 PM, next Friday and Saturday, February 19 and 20, 8 PM, and next Sunday, February 21, 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; 663-0048.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.