ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD – KOMISCHE OPER BERLIN
REVIEW ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD: MAGICAL KOSKY OPERETTA BONANZA
Star director Barrie Kosky’s frivolous take on the Offenbach operetta Orpheus in the Underworld blew away the 2019 Salzburg Festival at its world premiere, and is now a repertory show at Kosky’s home Komische Oper in Berlin. The widely acclaimed production is an absolutely breathtaking operetta bonanza that is worth seeing again and that no one should miss.
The show is a piece of equipment without equal, stuffed to the brim with crazy costumes, unbridled joy from a huge cast, strong soloists, masterfully timed gags, top festive music, sex, humor – yes, entertaining as hell.
The plot is twisted well and thoroughly compared to the antique publisher, but let me try to set the scene for you anyway.
Orpheus’ wife Eurydice is sick to death of her silly, perpetually violin-fiddling husband and their passionless marriage. When she smashes his Stradivarius into violin chips against the headboard, you drop your lower jaw onto your chest, where it remains for the next 2 hours 45 min. including a break.
Eurydice now willingly allows herself to be seduced by Pluto, ruler of the underworld, and follows him to the underworld, where nothing is as you learned in ancient history class.
However, hopes of decadent, erotic excitement soon fade when Pluto proves less enthusiastic than first thought. Matters are further complicated by the fact that Jupiter, the supreme god, has caught wind of the situation and intervenes in the battle for Eurydice’s favor.
Meanwhile, Orpheus’ joy at being rid of his wife has been spoiled by Public Opinion, which has arrived and politely but firmly sends Orpheus off to the underworld to bring his wife home – what else would people think!
The narrator, John Styx, in a purple tuxedo, is a sort of underworld butler, trying to keep things in order in the confusion, which continually escalates with the arrival of his god friends Venus, Cupid, Diana, Mars, Mercury and a host of other madcap characters with varying errands in crazy costumes. A horny Jupiter in a fly outfit with a cute little glittery willy is priceless.
Never have I seen so many sequined penises, dancing lovesick bees, homoerotic devils in skin-colored catsuits, all topped off in the finale’s outrageously breathtaking chorus line of dancing vulvas in cancan skirts.
The point of the staging is framed (perhaps) when, towards the end, Eurydice takes control of her own destiny and thwarts her ascent to her home on Olympus, instead pulling the cork on a new, free and more festive life with Bacchus, the god of wine.
Incessantly, the festive music races along in the fast-paced French operetta style that became the signature of the French/German composer Jaques Offenbach – he wrote no less than 100 operettas around 1850-1870, including the festive, madcap opera The Adventures of Hoffmann, which can often be seen on European stages.
From August 2023, the Komische Oper will undergo a major renovation and will temporarily move its performances to other locations.
These include an airplane hangar in Tempelhof, Koncerthaus Berlin, Rotes Rathaus and not least Schillerteater, where you can catch Kosky’s thoroughly entertaining crowd-pleaser Orpheus in the Underworld in seven performances in December. It’s just a matter of getting there.
There’s no way around six stars from GOT TO SEE THIS Check out a wild trailer and current performance schedule here.
BERLIN TIPS RIGHT NOW
Don’t miss Austrian/German multi-artist Yadegar Asisi’s fabulous 360-degree Pergamon Panorama, which brings the ancient metropolis to life in a gigantic rotunda on Museum Island, a mammoth work that you view from a 10-15 meters high stair tower as sound and image spin around you in a completely immersive 1:1 sense of being there.
Another good art tip is the Neue Nationalgallerie in Mies Van Der Rohe’s beautiful signature building near Potsdamer Platz. The current exhibition includes Gerhardt Richter and a number of sharp works from the Babylonian Weimar Germany of the 1920s and 30s.
After theater time, as always, Borchardt’s in Mitte is open until past midnight, serving oysters, bubbles and, right now, the delicious white asparagus, with a bustling incrowd ambience of VIPs and wannabes.