Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘The Nightsong of Orpheus’ at InSeries

The InSeries kicks off its new season with a production incorporating elements from L'Orfeo along with principles and performers of Noh.

The Nightsong of Orpheus -- Photo: Bayou Elom
The Nightsong of Orpheus — Photo: Bayou Elom

In recent years, the InSeries under Artistic Director Timothy Nelson has generated significant attention and praise — and for good reason.

It’s hard to think of another opera-oriented organization, small or large, being so audacious as to launch a new season with a production of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, an adaptation of Greek mythology dating to the early 17th century.

But to kick off the new season with a production incorporating elements from L’Orfeo along with principles and performers of Noh, the practically ancient Japanese style of theater that originated in the 14th century?

By default, such a bold move and experiment renders the late-Renaissance opera even less contemporary, flirting with being ancient — yet also infinitely more notable and buzzworthy.

We are, after all, talking about a work widely regarded as the oldest opera still performed mashed up with the oldest style of theater still performed.

The resulting production, christened The Nightsong of Orpheus, is billed as a “one-of-a-kind performance [that] weaves together haunting baroque melody, poetry, and dance with the ancient masked musical and dramatic tradition from Japan” — featuring music from L’orfeo as well as from another Monteverdi masterpiece, the composer’s sacred Vespers, with fragments of traditional Noh music and dance, including a set of specialty masks commissioned by master Japanese Noh mask-maker Kitazawa Hideta.

A cast of leading vocal artists, led by Tony Boutté as Orpheus, will be accompanied by the INnovātiō Baroque Orchestra and also joined by actors and musicians from Theatre Nohgaku, including Noh performer Akira Matsui, designated a living national treasure by the government of Japan, and drummer and flutist Richard Emmert, a leading expert on Noh music, in a production performed in English and Japanese based on a new translation.

Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 25, at 2:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

Tickets are $20 to $55. Visit www.inseries.org or call 202-204-7763.

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