Posted by on September 20, 2023
Sep 202023

As this fabulous Five Lines article recounts:

Composer Gareth Farr calls the 10-piece ensemble he’s used for the dance-opera (m)Orpheus his “Frank Zappa band”. To a string quartet – “to support the singers” – he’s added trumpet, trombone (doubling euphonium), guitar, clarinet (doubling saxophone) and two percussionists playing on one marimba. Most of these instruments weren’t seen on the concert stage when Christoph Gluck composed his Orpheus and Eurydice.

When Farr was approached by NZ Opera to prepare the music for a “re-invention” of the work, his first instinct was to decline. “I’m not an arranger, I’m a composer.” And then, he tells me, he thought “if I say yes, I’m going to have to make it weird. So, my entire reason for agreeing in the first place was to be subversive. I wanted to subvert this piece of music – into a good place.”

Simon Holden’s review is also excellent:

Probably most radical is Gareth Farr’s “reorchestration” of Gluck for a ten-piece ensemble including string quartet, brass, woodwind, guitar and two marimbas. It seemed to recreate the music of the original 1762 version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, but the instrumental textures are a far cry from what Gluck would have recognised.

The connection between these instruments and the overall concept may not have been clear, but it made for some intriguing timbral mixtures. Different arias were given different obbligato accompaniments, often combining solo brass and wind instruments (for example, trumpet and clarinet in “Chiamo il mio ben”). The two marimbas’ tremolo certainly added a haunting tension to the recitatives and Orfeo’s famous lament worked surprisingly well with guitar and solo violin accompaniment.

mOrpheus BlackGrace Gareth Farr NZ composer