Philip Glass’s opera ORPHÉE at Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, April 26, 29 & May 2, 4 presented by Pittsburgh Opera

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Debra L. Bell, Director of Marketing and Communications


Office: (412) 281-0912 ext 214 or [email protected]




The hippest opera you’ll see this year: Pittsburgh Opera’s ORPHÉE


              Philip Glass’s opera ORPHÉE

Where:           Benedum Center for the Performing Arts


                        7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh




When:             Saturday, April 26, 8:00 p.m.                 Tuesday, April 29, 7:00 p.m.


                        Friday, May 2, 8:00 p.m.                        Sunday, May 4, 3:00 p.m.*




Run Time:      2 hours, 10 minutes, including 1 intermission




Language:     Sung in French with English texts projected above the stage




Tickets:          Start at $12 for all performances. 


                  Call 412-456-6666 for more information or visit




Note:              * The Sunday, May 4 performance begins at a special time, 3:00 PM. 






Related           Opera Up Close; Brown Bag concert; WQED Preview; Meet the Artists;


Events:           Audio Description for those with visual impairments.
See page 5 of this release.


Pittsburgh, PA… Pittsburgh Opera continues its 75th anniversary season with an opera rooted in a 20th-century film that is inspired by an ancient myth: Philip Glass’s ORPHÉE, based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, as interpreted by the French visionary Jean Cocteau. The third work in Pittsburgh Opera’s American Opera Series, ORPHÉE is on stage at the Benedum Center April 26 – May 4. Based on Cocteau’s film from 1950 post-war France, the ultra-suave production by Sam Helfrich (Eugene Onegin, 2009) premiered at Glimmerglass Opera in 2007 to glowing reviews. Mr. Glass’s ORPHÉE (1993) is influenced by jazz, honky-tonk, and modal harmonies, creating a hypnotic, seductive whole. Cocteau’s “through the mirror” cinematic effect is cleverly conveyed on stage by sets of hanging metallic beads, body doubles and back-to-back furnishings. The costumes are chic. The look is modern. There are also amusing touches: a large portrait of Orphée that recalls Chuck Close’s famous portraits of Mr. Glass, and a glazier in the Underworld, who works for “Phil’s Glass.”  In 2005, Mr. Glass reciprocated with a musical portrait of Mr. Close.




ORPHÉE has a Pittsburgh connection: before he was “Philip Glass,” and before today’s young composers (Nico Muhly, Gregory Spears) cited him as a major influence, and before he appeared on Saturday Night Live, Philip Glass was a composer-in-residence for Pittsburgh Public Schools. Quoted in Pittsburgh Magazine’s October 2013 feature “Glass Goes to Class,” distinguished local composer David Stock remarked, “Philip was the only composer to ever give up a year in Paris for a second year in Pittsburgh.” Mr. Glass had received a Fulbright scholarship to study in France with Nadia Boulanger; however, he was asked to remain in Pittsburgh. He was awarded the Fulbright again a year later, leaving for Paris in Fall 1964. Mr. Glass is expected to be in Pittsburgh to attend the dress rehearsal of ORPHÉE on April 24 and to give a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University on April 25.




ORPHÉE brings the returns of Matthew Worth (The Barber of Seville, 2010) and former Resident Artist Caroline Worra, both of whom have earned praise for their roles as Mr. Glass’s Orphée and Eurydice, respectively. Jonathan Boyd and Heather Buck make their Pittsburgh debuts in the otherworldly personas of The Princess and Heurtebise. Resident Artist Daniel Curran takes the role of the up-and-coming poet Cégeste.  

Music Director Antony Walker returns to conduct the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Sam Helfrich (Eugene Onegin, 2009) directs ORPHÉE. Resident Artist George Cederquist is assistant director.




Tickets to ORPHÉE start at $12, with all performances at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. For additional information, videos, photos, musical samples, cast biographies, and the full story of ORPHÉE, visit To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit


Facts about the opera and the composer


¡   Born in 1937 in Chicago and reared in Baltimore, where his father had a record store, Philip Glass became enthusiastic about music at an early age. He went to the University of Chicago when he was 15 and graduated at 19 before moving on to Juilliard.


¡   Philip Glass worked various gigs to fund his musical education at Juilliard, from plumber to cab driver to a six-month stint as a crane operator in a Baltimore steel mill. His job writing new music for Pittsburgh’s school children was a plum assignment by comparison.


¡   ORPHÉE premiered in 1993 at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. Composer Paul Barnes met Philip Glass by chance two years later on a plane, and so began a collaboration that started with a transcription of Mr. Glass’s Satyagraha, and continued with a suite for piano from ORPHÉE by Paul Barnes, on the Orange Mountain label.






The story, in brief
Orphée, a famous poet, watches enviously as a group of young people swarm around Cégeste, a younger, up-and-coming poet. Orphée is transfixed with Cégeste’s patron, The Princess, but the spell is broken when the drunken Cégeste starts a brawl. The cops arrive and break up the party. Cégeste flees, but once outside, is struck down by two motorcyclists. The motorcyclists bring in Cégeste’s lifeless body. The Princess and her chauffeur Heurtebise intervene, and she demands that Orphée accompany her as they transport Cégeste’s body. In a state of shock, Orphée complies, but then sees The Princess bringing Cégeste back to life and leading him through a mirror. Heurtebise returns, carrying a radio, which he presents to the dazed Orphée.


Heurtebise escorts Orphée home, where Eurydice has been worrying and waiting. Her friend Aglaonice waits with her, along with the police commissioner. Orphée comes in, but then rudely dismisses both the commissioner and Aglaonice. Distracted and preoccupied, Orphée interrupts his wife as she tries to tell him that she is pregnant. He then loses himself in his studio along with the radio, leaving Eurydice with Heurtebise, who has entered unobtrusively and has watched the entire scene. As time passes, Orphée becomes obsessed with listening to the radio, which emits mysterious messages. Neglecting Eurydice, he works feverishly to transcribe the words, which he interprets as poetic inspiration. Eurydice turns to Heurtebise for comfort.


Cégeste’s death and disappearance remain a mystery. At the commissioner’s office, Aglaonice and others accuse Orphée of plagiarizing Cégeste’s work. The commissioner reminds them that Orphée is a national treasure and dismisses them; they threaten to find their own justice.


Meanwhile, the desperately unhappy Eurydice decides to visit Aglaonice. As she leaves, motorcycles are heard once again, and Heurtebise rushes out, returning a moment later with the dying Eurydice, whom he lays out tenderly.


When Heurtebise tries to tell Orphée that his wife is near death, the poet ignores him, preferring to write. Finally, Orphée looks up from his work and Heurtebise informs him that Eurydice is dead; but, if Orphée is willing to follow, he can reclaim her from The Princess, whom Heurtebise reveals as Death. Heurtebise and Orphée travel through the mirror.


In the Underworld, The Princess is on trial before a panel of nameless judges for taking Eurydice’s life without proper orders. During the strange proceedings, Cégeste, The Princess, Orphée, Heurtebise, and Eurydice are each interrogated, and it comes out that Heurtebise is in love with Eurydice. The judges withdraw to study the case, leaving Orphée and The Princess alone together. Orphée professes his love for her and swears to return to her, regardless of what happens. The judges return and pronounce their sentence: The Princess is given provisional freedom, and Eurydice may return to her life with Orphée, on the condition that he never looks directly at her again. Heurtebise, at his own suggestion, is appointed to accompany them. They return home, but find it nearly impossible to comply with the condition. To avoid Eurydice, Orphée retreats into his study along with the mysterious radio, but eventually, his gaze falls on his wife and she immediately disappears back into the Underworld.


Soon after, a mob of angry youngsters appears to confront Orphée about Cégeste’s death. Heurtebise gives Orphée a pistol, and during the confrontation, Orphée is shot. Returning to the Underworld, Orphée is reunited with The Princess, but she commands Heurtebise to return Orphée, once and for all, to his life. Despite his protests, she explains that “A poet’s death must sacrifice herself to make him immortal.”


Orphée is returned through the mirror, and finds Eurydice resting casually. They chat about the child they’re expecting and then Orphée heads back to work, seemingly unaware of all that has passed. In the Underworld, The Princess and Heurtebise are led off to their frightening, unspecified judgments. 




Tickets to ORPHÉE start at $12, with all performances at the Benedum Center for the
Performing Arts, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. For additional information, videos, photos, musical samples, cast biographies, and the full story of ORPHÉE, visit To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit


The 2013-14 Pittsburgh Opera season is generously supported by PNC.
American Eagle Outfitters is the Friday Night Sponsor.
The National Endowment for the Arts supports Pittsburgh Opera’s American Opera Series.
WYEP is Media Sponsor for ORPHÉE.
WQED-FM is Season Media Sponsor.




Cast and Artistic Team(abbreviated list; cast is listed in order of vocal appearance)




Orphée                                                     Matthew Worth


The Princess                                            Heather Buck +                            


Eurydice                                                   Caroline Worra **


Heurtebise                                                Jonathan Boyd +


Cégeste                                                    Daniel Curran *


Aglaonice                                                  Samantha Korbey *


Poet                                                          Adam Fry **


Police Commissioner                               Alex DeSocio *


Judge                                                        Phillip Gay *


Conductor                                                 Antony Walker


Director                                                     Sam Helfrich


Set Designer                                             Andrew Lieberman


Costume Designer                                   Kaye Voyce


Lighting Designer                                      Aaron Black
Hair & Makeup Designer                          James Geier


Asst. Conductor                                        Glenn Lewis


Chorus Master                                          Mark Trawka


Associate Coach/Pianist                          James Lesniak




ORPHÉE set and costumes are owned by Glimmerglass Festival.


+    Pittsburgh Opera debut


*     Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist


**   Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni






Tickets and Group Discounts


Tickets for all performances of ORPHÉE start at $12. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call (412) 456-6666 or visit For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213.




Related Events

Brown Bag Concert, “Favorite Arias and Scenes”
Saturday, April 12 – 12:00 p.m.


George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Avenue)


The final Brown Bag concert of the season! These casual, one-hour concerts feature our Resident Artists in the George R. White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Guests can meet the performers after the concert. Free and open to the public; no RSVP required. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit




Opera Up Close: ORPHÉE


Sunday, April 13 – 2:00 p.m.


George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Ave.)


Opera Up Close: ORPHÉE includes an in-depth musical analysis of the opera, with Maestro Walker and other directors and artists from the production. Admission is $5; free to members of FRIENDS of Pittsburgh Opera. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit


ORPHÉE Previews on WQED-FM 89.3 and WQED.ORG


Saturday, April 19 – 11:30 a.m.; Friday, April 25 – 7:00 p.m.


Hosted by WQED’s Stephen Baum and Anna Singer, and broadcast over the airwaves as well as the WQED website, the ORPHÉE preview gives listeners an engaging introduction to the singers, music and story of the opera. For more information, visit




FRIENDS of Pittsburgh Opera City Chapter event
Sunday, April 27 – 3:00 p.m.


Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Ave.)


Join FRIENDS of Pittsburgh Opera Join City Chapter host Manny Smith and guest speaker Jim Cunningham, Artistic Director of WQED-FM for a “Film Spotlight on Verdi, Mozart, and Puccini” on Sunday, April 27. There is a $5 per person hospitality fee, payable at the door. RSVP by Friday, April 25 to Marilyn Egan, 412-281-0912, ext. 242. For more information, visit


Pre-Opera Talks


Benedum Center Main Floor


Ticketholders are invited to attend a Pre-Opera Talk on ORPHÉE one hour before each performance’s curtain in the Orchestra Section (Main Floor) of the Benedum Center. Learn about the composer and the story of the opera. Free to all ticketholders.




Audio Description: ORPHÉE
Tuesday, April 29


Benedum Center Main Floor


Ticketholders with visual impairments are invited to use Pittsburgh Opera’s Audio
Description service at our Tuesday performances. Trained volunteers describe the scenery, costumes, and stage action via headphones. Those wishing to use Audio Description should reserve seats to the Tuesday, April 29 performance: contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, ext. 213 or [email protected]. Braille and large-print opera programs are also available in the Benedum Grand Lobby.




Meet the Artists of ORPHÉE


Tuesday, April 29


Immediately following the opera, in the Benedum Lower Lobby


Ticketholders for the Tuesday, April 29 performance of ORPHÉE are invited to gather in the Benedum Lower Lobby immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.






Pittsburgh Opera celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2013-14 with OPERA FOR A NEW AGE, a mix of long-beloved operas and new favorites. Established by five intrepid women in 1939, Pittsburgh Opera is viewed as one of the most vibrant opera organizations in the U.S., with a rich artistic tradition, outstanding educational programs, an acclaimed artist training program, and a progressive outlook toward the future. Its green initiative culminated in LEED® Silver certification for its Strip District headquarters, and its capacity as a true community partner has increased significantly under General Director Christopher Hahn’s leadership. Tickets for the 2013-2014 season start at just $12.








2013-14 Season
AIDA •• October 12 – 20, 2013
ORPHÉE •• November 9 – 17, 2013


DARK SISTERS •• January 25 – February 2, 2014


SECOND STAGE PROJECT: PAUL’S CASE •• February 22 – March 2, 2014
ORPHÉE •• March 26 – April 6, 2014
ORPHÉE •• April 26 – May 4, 2014


For ticket information visit our website or call (412) 281-0912


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