Past: Present

On Friday and Saturday, we captured audio and video from several scenes in Puccini’s La bohème and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for Love: Surrender, a series of videos that will be posted on our website on August 9.

And from today’s vantage point here in the Barns balcony, I’m witnessing scenes from the Orpheus myth, set by Monteverdi and Gluck. We’re currently in tech: in a normal theatrical model we’d have all hands on deck tweaking the movements of the scenery, making adjustments to costumes and wigs, checking ensemble moments with the orchestra, defining traffic patterns between principals, chorus, and stage crew. Today, we are lightly staffed and ferociously focused on different production aspects; camera position, lighting, balance of voices and instruments in the audio feed.

The beauty of this Monteverdi excerpt is striking. In it, Orpheus addresses Charon, the guardian of the Underworld, in an attempt to win back his beloved Eurydice. The instrumentation is sparse, the emotion is high; Orpheus keeps repeating Rendetemi il mio ben in an upwards chromatic sequence.

To paraphrase the Italian: Give back to me her/him/them whom I love. Give back to me that which I love.

We each know this feeling acutely, as routines, livelihoods, experiences, and people that we love have been wrest from us against our wills since March. (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to shedding a tear or two, here in the balcony of The Barns, in seat CC 101.) Loss has marked these past months so profoundly, and I believe that no one remains untouched.

But the words of Ancient Greece, filtered through Striggio’s libretto, give me a sense of hope. Words that were first sung over 400 hundred years ago are now interpreted anew by a compelling modern artist. While the world is in the midst of upheaval and pandemic, the sheer existence of this text, these melodies is a testament to the incredible fortitude of humanity, love, and art. It is an invocation to continue, to press on and search for joy, happiness, and music in the darkest of places.

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