Ten’s To See: ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ by Wayne McGregor at the English National Opera
If pirouettes were catwalk turns and dance troupes are design teams, then Wayne McGregor is the Miuccia Prada of dance. A creative who is single-handedly shifting the direction of contemporary dance/ fashion into their own way, somewhere between tradition and newness, the everyday and the avant-garde. Both have received many a laureate confirming their success and importance for the world, even though they would definitely argue awards are totally not why they do it. And while many will try, no one can recreate the kind of innovative work those two creative brains produce. Prada comparisons aside, Wayne McGregor is truly one of the leading voices in dance right now, both as the head of his own eponymous studio and as the resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet (the first ever to have a background in contemporary dance). In his latest move to world domination one chassé at a time, McGregor directed his first piece for the English National Opera.
As part of ENO’s big Orpheus-themed autumnal programme, the dancing prodigy reimagined the opera of Orpheus and Eurydice, originally composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck and based on an ancient Greek myth of a troublesome love story. On his quest to spend the rest of his life with his late wife Eurydice, Orpheus descends into the Underworld. His task isn’t as easy as just getting her out of there though – he has to lead the way without casting a look at Eurydice, or else she will be lost forever.
McGregor’s show premiered on October 1st at the London Coliseum with eight performances planned in total, fifth of which is happening tonight. For his own version of the 18th century opera, he used Hector Berlioz’ version of Gluck’s libretto which is performed by three lead voices. Alice Coote as Orpheus, Sarah Tynan in the role of Eurydice, and Soraya Mafi performing as Love, are accompanied on the stage by the choreographer’s signature balletic expression performed by 14 dancers from Studio Wayne McGregor. As you would expect from the radical perfectionist he is, Wayne McGregor extends the modernity of his Orpheus and Eurydice into the staging too.
The set for the show was created by renowned British designer Lizzie Clachan, with Olivier Award-winning Jon Clark on the lighting design and visual artist Ben Cullen-Williams behind the electric video serving as the backdrop for the on-stage shenanigans. As for the stark neon costumes, it’s no surprise they’re the works of Louise Gray, a true legend of London’s fashion scene and a tutor on the MA Fashion programme at Central Saint Martins. Even the hats and masks carry a pretty epic signature – they were designed and made by Nasir Mazhar. Thanks to this new generation of creatives carefully curated by Wayne McGregor entering the operatic realm, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been given a fresh makeover and a new sense of energy. And with this stellar directorial debut, the art of opera has a clear, bright future ahead.
The following performances of ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ by Wayne McGregor for the English National Opera will take place at the London Coliseum on October 31st, November 14th and 19th. Tickets available to book online.
Photographs by Donald Cooper.