Glass: Orphee

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Orange Mountain Music
WORKS: Orphée
PERFORMER: Philip Cutlip, Lisa Saffer, Ryan Macpherson, Georgia Jarmen, Steven Brennfleck; The Portland Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Anne Manson


The three stage pieces that Philip Glass drew in the 1990s from sources by Jean Cocteau are among his most highly regarded and widely performed.

Orphée, a two-Act opera based on Cocteau’s 1949 film, is the most conventional in format, though ‘conventional’ is not the word for a plot that decks out Euridice’s trip to the underworld with period features: mysterious motorcyclists, and terrifying interrogations, a bad case of writer’s block – this Orpheus is a poet – and an ‘undead’ princess who fascinates him in distinctly sado-masochistic ways. 

While the film divides opinion – many-layered, or pretentious and dated? – Glass’s music has refreshed it by adjusting the emotional balance away from cynicism towards a more rounded portrayal of the characters. Portland Opera’s production gives it a contemporary edge, and makes for an engrossing experience.


It’s consistently well sung, with the outstanding vocal performance coming from Lisa Saffer as the Princess, and sound support from Ryan MacPherson as her assistant, the edgier Philip Cutlip as Orpheus, and Georgia Jarmen sounding bright as Euridice. Robert Maycock