Opera North’s cross-cultural production of Orpheus has today been announced as the winner of the prestigious Outstanding Achievement in Opera Award in the 2022 Critics’ Circle Music Awards.
The award recognises the unique value of the art-form and the ambition and achievement of opera companies in Britain. The judges, who are drawn from across the arts, commended Orpheus as being “one of the most remarkable operatic events in living memory” with its innovative melding of the music of Monteverdi’s 1607 opera Orfeo with brand new music by composer and virtuoso sitar player Jasdeep Singh Degun resulting in a production that was at once “fresh and new, warm-hearted, tragic and triumphant.”
Opening in Leeds in October 2022, Orpheus saw Jasdeep Singh Degun working together with early music specialist Laurence Cummings to lead a cast starring some of the best Indian classical and European baroque musicians in the UK. Directed by Anna Himali Howard with set and costume design by Leslie Travers, the result was a celebration of different musical styles and cultures which delighted audiences across the north of England and later on OperaVision.
When awarding their accolade, the judges commented:
“This exhilarating performance was a lesson in daring, plunging headlong into the cultural diversity to which so many pay mere lip-service – and making the point that simply daring is not enough: you need to make sure all the individual components are as good as they can be. Marrying the European myth of Orpheus to the equivalent Indian story in the Mahabharata, Orpheus sang Monteverdi’s music while Eurydice answered him in the language and style of India, accompanied by the beguiling sounds of the bowed tar-shenai, the sitar, the santoor (a hammered dulcimer) and many other instruments.
“And this was a real marriage, no simplistic fusion. Leslie Travers’s magical designs transported us, in this dignified and joyous staging by Anna Himali Howard, to an inter-cultural wedding in the back garden of a regular Leeds semi; the musical landscapes flowed, ebbed and melded, and the old story took on a wholly novel, vital resonance and meaning.”