This weekend, performers in “The Silent Lyre” will explore the question of what happens after Orpheus looks back at Eurydice — condemning her to the underworld — in the widely known myth named after those two protagonists.
Friday’s and Saturday’s performances will be the inaugural production in Pauli Murray College’s recently dedicated Lighten Theater. “The Silent Lyre” features an adaptation of two early operas that tell Orpheus’ story, arranged by musical director Michael Rigsby MED ’88, a founding member and director of the Elm City Consort, a community-based professional music group that focuses on early music. “The Silent Lyre” will feature professional and undergraduate singers.
“This isn’t your typical baroque opera; it’s an immersive theatrical experience where one can experience the heightened emotional and musical reality of opera with the characters so close you could touch them,” said Jeremy Weiss ’15, who will return to campus to play the role of Orfeo in the production.
The operas Rigsby adapted for the production are some of the first works of music that distinguish opera as its own art form. The first portion of the performance will include most of “Orfeo Dolente,” which translates as “The Sorrowful Orpheus,” written by 16th- and 17th-century Florentine composer Domenico Belli, who wrote in a style and form that limited the dramatic potential of the work: Belli never addresses Orpheus’ ultimate fate.
To complete the narrative, Rigsby then incorporated “La Morte d’Orfeo,” translated as “The Death of Orpheus,” which Belli’s contemporary Stefano Landi completed just a few years after “The Sorrowful Orpheus” was first performed.
Rigsby also noted the Elm City Consort’s educational mission, which it fulfills through programming events like “The Silent Lyre” and by “creating performances of unknown or unfamiliar works and making them easily accessible to the public.”
“But equally important to me is giving students or accomplished musicians with little experience in this repertoire the opportunity to take a deep dive into the world of early music alongside experienced professionals,” Rigsby said.
To illustrate this collaboration of students and professionals, she emphasized the diversity of the show’s singing cast, orchestra and design team, which includes six undergraduates, recent Yale alums, faculty and staff.
“What I love about this project is that it has brought so many people from different backgrounds together, and when we’re on stage, we’re all just trying to serve the piece as truthfully as we can,” mezzo-soprano Evanna Lai MUS ’16 wrote in an email to the News.
In the opera, Lai will play the role of Calliope, Orpheus’ mother. According to mythology, Calliope teaches Orpheus to sing.
The performance’s stage director is Lynda Paul GRD ’12. Rigsby said the opera’s cast aims to present historically accurate 17th-century musical performance style and rhetoric, though the production does not have a historically accurate stage design.
“It has been a lot of fun to take advantage of modern technology and the resources of the new Lighten Theater to create a fitting world for our mythological character,” Rigsby said.
The Lighten Theater is dedicated to the late Janifer Lighten ’83, the Yale Black Alumni Association’s first president.
Julia Carabatsos | firstname.lastname@example.org