What shall I do without Euridice?
May 13, 2014 12:02 AM   Subscribe

In a new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) in Vienna, the part of Euridice is shared between the soprano Christiane Karg, who sings from the stage, and Karin Anna Giselbrecht, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state, who lies in a nearby hospital. "The music is played to her and video cameras relay her image to the stage." [From the opera blog Intermezzo.]

There is a plan to repeat the production in Brussels, where the video relay will star a patient named Els with locked in syndrome. The patients' families and medical teams reportedly responded with enthusiasm to the unusual casting choice by director Romeo Castellucci.

For those unfamiliar with the opera, here is its most famous aria, Che faró senza Euridice, performed by Janet Baker in a more traditional production; Elisabeth Speiser, silent in this scene, plays Euridice. (The role of Orfeo is scored such that it can be played by either a low-voiced woman or a high-voiced man. In the Vienna production, Orfeo is sung by countertenor Bejun Mehta.)
posted by Orinda (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
That's.... really interesting. I often really like artistic choices where I have to try to divine and work out how I feel. (The Cremaster Cycle, for one.)
posted by jokeefe at 4:01 AM on May 13, 2014

Maybe Europe doesn't have the emotional baggage that the Terry Schiavo debacle brought down on the U.S., but this seems exploitative of Ms. Giselbrecht. I guess the family is in the best position to make the call.

OTOH, if Els can communicate consent, how awesome would that be for zir to participate in this?
posted by radicalawyer at 5:05 AM on May 13, 2014

It would have been really cool if the hospitalized performers had been performers before their illnesses, or had been interested in doing so, and thus got to fulfill an ambition that would otherwise have been denied to them. And that may be the case, and the article just didn't mention it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2014

The patients' families and medical teams reportedly responded with enthusiasm ..... nobody has any idea what Karin Anna Giselbrecht herself would have thought of this, nor does anybody involved seem too interested in even considering her possible viewpoint, only their own: and that right there is what makes this feel like exploitation.

As for the future production with "a patient named Els locked in syndrome", is Els able or unable to agree or disagree to this?

It brings this opera production to the level of a cheap peepshow at a 1930s carnival, using people like Zippy the Pin-Headed Boy and other so-called 'geeks & freaks' to pull in voyeurs.
posted by easily confused at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

what kind of syndrome are they talking about?

This kind.

Is Els able or unable to agree or disagree to this?

According to this article (in French) she can and did, after lengthy discussions between her, her family, her health care team, and the theatre. I gather that like most people with locked-in syndrome her cognitive functions are intact but she has limited means of communication (in this case by blinking).
posted by jedicus at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

This seems a little like sympathy porn to me and an attempt to use morbid curiosity to sell opera tickets. How does this video enhance the appreciation of the opera?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gotta echo what was said above: other people around her may have consented, but she didn't. Yes, those people are legally responsible for making certain decisions for her.

I don't think those decisions include projecting her image for the world to, as Mental Wimp alluded to, mentally masturbate to sympathy porn.

This is grotesque on many, many levels. Personally if I woke up from a persistent vegetative state/coma, and found out that my friends and family had used my image as part of some art project? I would sue each and every one of them into the fucking stone age.

This is just so gross I can't even.

(Els, obviously, different case; could provide consent.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe worth noting that Romeo Castellucci is the director of a theater company called Societas Raffaello Sanzio. That might provide some context for his thinking about theater.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

An even more to the point question: if she were able to consent to this, would she?

When in guardianship of someone who cannot make their own decisions, you have to be conservative in protecting their privacy rights.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:32 AM on May 13, 2014

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