Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

April 26 – May 4

8 p.m., 7 p.m., 3 p.m.

Think opera isn’t hip? Think again. Seasoned fans of classical opera and those curious about the genre’s current state should not miss Philip Glass’s Orphée. Produced for Pittsburgh Opera‘s 75th anniversary season, the captivating work blends boundaries between opera, performance art, ancient myth and modern music. The third work in Pittsburgh Opera’s American Opera Series, Glass’ Orphée re-imagines the timeless tale of Orpheus and Eurydice for a contemporary age. The production marks the first time that Pittsburgh Opera has presented a full Philip Glass opera, and the first time that a local organization has staged Orphée.

Based on the 1950 film by visionary French writer and and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau (1889 – 1963)—the opera is a retelling of the legendary musician, poet and prophet Orpheus from ancient Greek myth, and features music and libretto by Glass. The first opera of Glass’ Cocteau Trilogy  (1991–1996), the work depicts the life of a poet misunderstood by his peers, who becomes involved with a mysterious princess, while examining themes of mortality, isolation, creativity, death and love. Influenced by jazz, honky-tonk and modal harmonies, the  hypnotic work conveys cinematic effects on stage via sets of hanging metallic beads, body doubles, back-to-back furnishings and chic modern costumes, while a large portrait of Orphée evokes artist Chuck Close’s famous portrait of Glass himself.

Directed by Sam Helfrich (Eugene Onegin, 2009), Orphée stars Matthew Worth (The Barber of Seville, 2010) in the lead role, and former Resident Artist Caroline Worra as Eurydice. Jonathan Boyd and Heather Buck make their Pittsburgh debuts as The Princess and Heurtebise, and Music Director Antony Walker conducts the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and Chorus.  A chamber opera in two acts for ensemble and soloists, Orphée premiered in 1993 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA.

Born in 1937 in Baltimore, Glass is among the most influential music makers of the late 20th century. A prolific and celebrated composer, he has written works for his own ensemble, as well as for operas, musical theatre, and film scores. He is also the recipient of a Fulbright, Golden Globe, and has received three Academy Award nominations. During the mid-1960s, Glass worked as composer-in-residence for Pittsburgh Public Schools. He will be in town to attend the April 24th drew rehearsal of Orphée, and to give a lecture at Carnegie Mellon on April 25.