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'Orpheus in the Underworld': bawdy and beautiful

April 24, 2007

Image of the poster promiting Creative Arts' production of "Orpheus in the Underworld"SF State's Theatre Arts Department and School of Music and Dance will lift the curtain on "Orpheus in the Underworld," on April 26. The comic operetta runs through May 6 in McKenna Theatre in the Creative Arts building.

The irreverent and uproarious social satire rewrites the ill-fated marital myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the two main characters. After their relationship sours, Eurydice is seduced by the deity Pluto and whisked away to the underworld, where more amorous adventures await. Orpheus is left behind to confront the gods on Olympus and in Hades and demand his wife's return. The play culminates in the infamous Can-Can that scandalized Paris at the three-act operetta's premiere.

Flying in the face of mythical tradition, this light opera was deemed "a profanation of holy and glorious antiquity" by critic Jules Janin, a comment that unintentionally catapulted "Orpheus" to instant popularity.

"'Orpheus in the Underworld' is bawdy, grand and fun, with beautiful music that's recognizable a century after its premiere," said Professor of Theatre Arts Roy Conboy, the stage director of the SF State Main Stage production. "It was wildly controversial and racy when first produced in the 1880s, largely because it contains the original Can-Can, but for us it's a lark, full of Mel Brooks-type humor in its irreverent rendering of the stormy marital woes of Orpheus and Eurydice.

"Our production, which brings together elements of the theatre, music and dance programs, is a feast for both the ears and eyes, featuring excellent work by student singers, actors, dancers, instrumentalists, designers and backstage technicians."

The production includes vocal direction by Assistant Professor of Music Alissa Deeter, choreography by Lecturer of Dance Cathleen McCarthy, and conducting by Assistant Professor of Music Cyrus Ginwala.

"Orpheus in the Underworld," written by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy, features music by Jacques Offenbach, new book and lyrics by Phil Park, and music adapted and arranged by Ronald Hammer.

"Orpheus in the Underworld" show times are 8 p.m. April 26-28 and May 4 and 5 with one matinee, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 6. Admission is $12 for the general public and $10 for students and seniors. All tickets are $10 for the April 26 preview. Tickets may be purchased by calling the SF State box office at (415) 338-2467 or visiting TicketWeb.

-- Matt Itelson
Image: Courtesy of the Theatre Arts Department


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Last modified April 24, 2007 by University Communications