“Eurydice” Revisits and Revives Myth and Memory

Eurydice (Sydney Mancasola) descends into the Underworld. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by The Boston Lyric Opera
Music by Matthew Aucoin
Conducted by Matthew Aucoin
Libretto by Sarah Ruhl
Based on the play by Sarah Ruhl
Stage Direction, Set, & Costume Design by Douglas Fitch
Sung in English with English surtitles

March 1-10, 2024
The Huntington Theater
264 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

The Digital Playbill

Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission

Review by Gillian Daniels

BOSTON, Mass – “This is what it is to love an artist: the moon is always rising above your house,” Sydney Mancasolaw sings as the newly dead Eurydice. “The houses of your neighbors are dark and dull.”

Her happy life with Orpheus (Elliot Madore) may be irretrievable, but her existence in this surreal update of this well-worn myth is not yet over. Eurydice, in this retelling, is placed center-stage as she struggles against forces that erode mortality, memory, and love.

Stage director Douglas Fitch gives audiences an engaging world. Stairs emerge from a great wall like a surreal painting, an elevator dribbles water from the mythical River Lethe which causes forgetfulness, and the Underworld has a chorus of lumpen talking stones (the deeply amusing Maggie Finnegan, Alexis Peart, and Neal Ferreira) who evoke both Greek tragedy and, in their colorful costuming and wry humor, the Muppets. 

A highlight of Eurydice is Hades, played with panache and unforgettable green horns by David Portillo. His singing is superb and the flamboyance with which he embraces the role is, fittingly, pitch-perfect.

The libretto follows the pattern explored in many other operas and stage adaptations. Orpheus, a talented musician, and Eurydice are in love. When she dies, he journeys to the Underworld in order to rescue her. Things don’t go as planned.

Composer Matthew Aucoin and writer Sarah Ruhl give us an Eurydice with more character and agency than many of her counterparts. She’s cautious, a little shy, and adverse to parties even when she’s the one throwing them. Early on, she voices concern that Orpheus prioritizes his music (embodied by the ghostly Nicholas Kelliher) over her. 

Her most complex relationship is the one she has with her father, played with admirable restraint by Mark S. Doss. Just as Orpheus longs for her after she dies, she longs to regain what’s been lost with her father’s death.

The question I asked myself the night I attended the show was, simply, why retell this story? The opera answers this as characters, confined to the Underworld, lose their identities. The worst fate here isn’t death itself. The Underworld, populated by talking stones and a campy King of the Dead, seems fine, even a little fun. The real tragedy is the end of memory; the purpose of repeating a myth often is to stave off its decay, its eventual lapse into the same abyss as the dead.

If Eurydice says loving an artist is having the moon above your house, does forgetting that love mean the moon is no longer there? Or is it just that it can’t be perceived? Regardless of that answer, it’s my hope Eurydice continues to shine.

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