This weekend, the University Musical Society and the Peter Sparling Dance Company will be performing Christoph Willibald Gluck”s opera “Orfeo ed Euridice.” This collaboration mixes aspects of the Ann Arbor art community including the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the UMS Choral Union, as well as a few students that are recent graduates of the University of Michigan”s School of Music. Renowned opera stars such as Ewa Podles, Isabel Bayrakdarian and Lisa Saffer are also performing in this one of a kind opera/dance production.

Gluck wrote “Orfeo” in 1762 in an attempt to return opera to its original simple structure with music that was closely connected with the drama. The story is a mythological classic, the story of a man, Orfeo, whose wife Euridice dies and is sent to Hades. Orfeo then pleads with the god of love, Amor, for a chance to return his beloved wife back to him. Amor gives him the opportunity to go to Hades but Orfeo must find his wife and then lead her back into the living world without looking back at her once along the journey. “Orfeo ed Euridice” at the Michigan Theater this weekend is unique in the telling of this story. Not only is it an opera, but it also features dance, offering something for both the ears and the eyes.

As a highly professional and innovative project, “Orfeo” has yielded many opportunities for School of Music students to participate. Students were very involved in the creative process of developing the opera, with some on stage and others performing. Pei Yi Wang, a School of Music student and Loren Allardyce and Kathryn Alexander, recent graduates, are acting in title roles tomorrow, taking over the positions performed on other days by Podles, Bayrakdarian and Saffer.

Wang, who is performing the role of Orfeo tomorrow, describes the music in “Orfeo ed Euridice” as “very beautiful it”s hard to sing but I love it because it”s so emotional and dramatic.” She also describes the show as a whole as “a dramatic unity of all kinds of singing, dancing, orchestra and everything.”

Wang is also excited about working with such diverse groups of performers, such as the Peter Sparling Dance Company and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. “This is my very first time working like a professional singer and working with a professional dance company. Each part just works for the unity for the whole opera and for me it”s a great opportunity,” she said.

This is the first project that the UMS has produced. UMS President Kenneth C. Fischer said, “It”s a pleasure to be a part of this inspirational project. “Orfeo ed Eurdice” is a true community collaboration, which embodies UMS”s three most important goals: Presentation, education and creation. This is the first time in the history of Ann Arbor that local arts organizations have joined forces to work together, making this collaboration unprecedented in its size and in the scope of its vision.”

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