From the San Francisco Chronicle
Photo: Steve DiBartoleme / Ensemble Parallele
I get great pleasure to see so much interest in Orphée. It premiered way back in the early 90s and Glass went on record as saying that he wrote it to be a popular piece but it never caught on. It was done at the Royal Opera House (not in the main room but the smaller Linbury studio) in London in 2005 to generally good reviews.
In 2007 the adventurous Glimmerglass Opera (Festival) dedicated its summer season to operas based on Orpheus. It was there that the NY Times noted:
"As presented here, in a haunting production by Sam Helfrich, vibrantly conducted by Anne Manson, Mr. Glass’s work was the surprise hit: a rich, complex and challenging experience."
This production was consequently picked up by the Portland Opera where it was recorded, largely with the same cast from Glimmerglass, and now seems to have caught on. Two more appearances of that production are planned for the US in coming seasons, in addition to this current production in San Francisco by Ensemble Parallele.
Certainly the recording of the complete opera helps things by giving people the opportunity to discover what this work has to offer. The NY Times certainly came around when reviewing the recording, almost 20 years after the premiere:
"In 1993 I attended the premiere of Philip Glass’s opera “Orphée” at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., and was unimpressed. The production, by Francesca Zambello, was striking, and the gifted singing actors gave their all. But the work did not cohere stylistically, and Mr. Glass’s score seemed automatic-pilot Minimalism. This time, 14 years after my first hearing, I was swept away by “Orphée.” I have come to consider it among Mr. Glass’s most inspired works."