Joel Ivany pulls no punches when asked about the Toronto performances of Orphée+, the bold reinvention of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 18th-century Baroque opera Orphée et Eurydice that will be performed in Banff later this month.

Initially, he thought they seemed a little rough.

A co-production between the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Opera Columbus and Ivany’s Toronto-based Against the Grain Theatre, the new opera’s well-received, three-night run at the Fleck Dance Theatre in late April came less than a week after debuting in Columbus.

“We had three performances back to back to back simply because that’s all we could, in theory, afford,” says Ivany, stage director of Orphée+ and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre. “It was very tight pressure in terms of the turnaround from Columbus to Toronto. I felt like it wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. I guess, in that search for perfection, you’re always hoping for more.”

But in hindsight, Ivany has come to a much more generous appraisal of the opera’s Canadian debut in Toronto. Clearly, the technically dazzling, multi-disciplined retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice packed a punch, and not only with audiences and critics. On June 24, Orphée+ picked up five Dora Awards, including one for best opera production. It had been nominated for nine trophies, making it one of Canadian theatre’s success stories of 2018.

“I think it just speaks to the team and the production itself and how powerful it was, considering it was under such tight constraints,” says Ivany, in an interview with Postmedia.

There was plenty of curiosity about the opera even before its impressive haul at the Doras, which honour theatre, dance and opera productions in Toronto. But the wins will give another boost in profile to Orphée+ as it enters its third and, at least for now, final run on July 12 and 14 at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

As a concept, Orphée+ is the sort of production that was sure to raise eyebrows even before it hit the stage.

Orphee+ at Banff Centre Opera

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Orphee+ at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity this summer.

It keeps the structure of Gluck’s opera intact, which was itself considered groundbreaking during its 1762 Vienna debut, but updates it with a mix of fearlessness and irreverence. It still tells the …read more



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