Open Air Dance Opera, whaaat?!

Published On June 10, 2011 | By Kate Magoc | The Arts

I’ve been to shows in some strange spots, anywhere from dark underground clubs to seedy decrepit houses. The live music I’ve been consuming lately has been all underlit atmospheres, all late-night parties, all modern and at times cacophonous. Last evening was a world away from my typical, dance frenzied, electro debauchery fueled by vodka and energy drinks. I took it down a notch, went out earlier than midnight, sipped water in lieu of alcohol, and got to experience one of my first literary loves, Greek mythology, come to life through the collaboration between Attack Theater and the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh as they performed Euridice and Orpheus.

The performance was held at the very unconventional locale of Allegheny Cemetery, staged around a pond and choreographed to utilize as much of the space surrounding the pond as artistically possible. The dancers Liz Chang (Euridice), Dane Toney (Orpheus) and Ashley Williams (Spirit) all moved about the bank of the pond fluidly and physically telling the tragic love story of Orpheus the Thracian musician and his love, the fatal heroine, Euridice. It was soap operatic, high drama though not the cheating kind. The characters danced a contemporary dance of passion and love-fraught sadness to the sounds of a wondering clarinetist and a small enclave of string musicians. The “stage” involved two platforms, one docked to the bank, the other floating on the pond representing Euridice’s decent into the underworld.

The atmosphere of the cemetery was what took the show to a level that prevented me from drifting off to the sounds of soprano Laura Knoop Very. Lounging on the grass with a comfortable breeze blowing threw my hair, the natural ‘theater’ was just too refreshing to let the storyline slip into snooze fest oblivion, something that tends to happen to my spritely I-must-get-up-and-dance self.

Experiencing renegade opera and contemporary dance in a cemetery actually made what would be a gloomy environment, incredibly magical.  I mentioned my love for Greek myths, this show reminded me of that literary love of mine and reiterated my general all-around love for music, any and all.  While this show was stocked with talent, a beautifully told love story, it was mostly about the experience.  Don’t like opera? Who cares…go for the experience.

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