Sebastian Ukena - Musiktheaterregie

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Orpheus and Eurydice


There are some jaw-dropping moments in London-based About Turn Theatre Company's staging of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice. To say more might spoil the surprise - suffice it to say that life-size garden gnomes play a big role at one point.

But what's really astonishing is just how good the show is overall. It's a proper opera, faithfully performed (albeit in an abridged version), with a remarkably creative staging and some seriously fine performers too - no sense of watering things down for an opera-uninitiated Fringe audience, just having faith (and rightly so) in their very strong production. Gluck's original is admittedly not the most sparkling work in the repertoire (although it's got some lovely tunes), but director Sebastian Ukena gives it a striking contemporary setting, with Orpheus grieving over his coma-stricken Eurydice in a hospital room, lured down to a fantastical underworld by the seductive Amore in the hope of waking her. […]
But it's Ukena's hugely imaginative production, brought to life with remarkable visual flair by designer Christine Hatton, that lives longest in the memory - and they achieve quite a coup in challenging Glück's unconvincing happy ending to heart-rending effect. It's a superb production, mature and insightful, and best of all, it has something to say.
(The Scotsman)

German director Sebastian Ukena's irreverent approach converts the shepherds and shepherdesses of his pastoral original into an enjoyably bonkers chorus of garden gnomes in little pointy hats, scattering neon fake flowers. But there's realism, too, as Orpheus's backward glance is given careful psychological reasoning by Eurydice's attacks on his resolve. […]
This is an Orpheus who's been dragged out of his underworld (even if he can't bring Eurydice with him) into a lively, fun performance that's heavenly for opera fans and is anything but the living hell that opera sceptics might suspect. Go: you won't look back.

The classical myth of tragic hero Orpheus, journeying into the Underworld to rescue his love Eurydice from the clutches of death, is here turned on its head. […]This journey is presented as a psychological odyssey, with the finale reinforcing the idea that this is a personal, rather than literal, quest.
This concept is bold and uncompromising, and is, for the most part, astonishingly well executed. In particular, Orpheus' encounter with the Furies, the guardians of the gates of hell, is terrifying, made more so by the fact that it is combined with jarring sirens and flashing lights, recalling the car accident that injured Eurydice. Orpheus' reunion with Eurydice is equally excellent, appearing both tender and also sad, as Orpheus realises that he cannot look at Eurydice until they escape hell, otherwise she will die forever. […]
Overall, this production of Orpheus and Eurydice is not to be missed. It is fast-paced and powerful, with wonderful vocal performances and an innovative concept.
(Broadway Baby)

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