This weekend, Early Music Vancouver (EMV) presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo, at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, at UBC. Often described as a “game changer” in the history of music, the historic work marks the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque. Orfeo was brought to life under the guidance of GRAMMY award-winner and Monteverdi specialist, Stephen Stubbs, leading the singers and musicians of Seattle’s Pacific MusicWorks. This production starred Vancouver’s Colin Balzer, an internationally celebrated tenor in the title role, and also included San Francisco’s Dark Horse Consort, North America’s most respected 17th century wind ensemble. The surprisingly lively work is a relatively quick 2 hour performance. Even though this was a performance sung in the original Italian, it was filled with bold performances lead by Balzer’s emotional turn as Orfeo.
Monteverdi’s Orpheo follows the Greek musician and demi-god, Orfeo (Orpheus in the original legend), who after losing his beloved Euridice to a snake bite, descends into Hades to use the power of music to convince the god of the underworld, Plutone, to return his beloved to life. Orfeo sings and plays so convincingly that Plutone agrees to grant his request, but on one condition – that he not look back when leading his love out of the darkness. Tragically, Orfeo, wracked by doubt and unable to control his own passion, glances back, condemning his beloved to an eternity in darkness, and Orfeo to a life without love. Returning to the light alone, Orfeo sings one of the most poignant and powerful laments in operatic history, ultimately reaching the ears of his father Apollo, the God of Music. Out of pity for his son, Apollo descends from the heavens to bring Orfeo comfort, thereby restoring balance to the world.
Early Music Vancouver produces a series of classical and choral works throughout the year. Visit earlymusic.bc.ca for the full calendar and more information.