Orpheus` Comfort, opera for babies

The audience is placed in the time of the Baroque period: The musician and singer Orpheus calls out, as he has lost his beloved Euridice. The feeling of loss and grief fills Orpheus. Euridice appears, but all of a sudden, she is gone again. Luckily, she returns. The music is composed by Maja S. K. Ratkje including an original aria from the opera Orfeo and Euridice by Chr. W. von Gluck. How song and music can bring back the beloved one, is the theme of the opera.

Orpheus`Comfort, opera for babies is a co-production between Babyopera and the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, and part of Ultima Contemporary Music Festival 2020

Team and performers

Idea, concept and scenario (libretto) Christina Lindgren
Music and text Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje after an aria from Orphée et Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck/ Ranieri de´ Calzabigi/ Pierre-Louis Moline

Direction Christina Lindgren
Choreography Elizabeth Svarstad
Set design Tormod Lindgren
Costumes design Christina Lindgren
Dramaturgy Svante Aulis Löwenborg
Performers Elisabeth Holmertz and Silje Aker Johnsen
Costume and scenography made by the creaftsmen and – women at the workshops of The Norwegian Opera & Ballet                                                                 

Producer Babyopera Camilla Svingen / Syv Mil
Consultant Karstein Solli

Supported by The Norwegian Arts Council







Excerpt from review by Anne Middelboe Christensen in www.teatervisen.dk 

Opera for babies

Back in the Opera’s foyer, two yellow-clad women wandered around in ‘Orpheus’ comfort’, as if they were the loose chickens in a mythical world somewhere – or at least in a contemporary version of Gluck’s opera ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ with new music by Maja Ratkje in a totally sensuous staging and with poetic costumes by Christina Lindgren.

Wearing elegant yellow crinoline dresses with wide skirts and red gloves and red shoes, the two women moved elegantly and smiling under beautiful powder wigs in the 18th century – and lured the children and their parents into a circle of folding walls painted as the most beautiful pastoral landscapes with idyllic and green grass and seductive lilies of the valley. The children stared. Both the eager two-year-old who would rather tear himself free from his father and mussel over and touch these wonderful creatures. But also the little breastfeeding baby, who lay safely with her mother, but who occasionally turned her head and looked at the singing women with unfathomable glances.

The two performing opera singers, Silje Aker Johnsen and Marie Delna, turned out to be rare performing artists who can both sing opera and dance – at the same time. They performed a glorious baroque choreography with tiny foot movements and stylized arms that again and again created precise lines in the air – choreographed with witty humor by Elizabeth Svarstad. At the same time, they sang about Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice with the deepest love voices of hope and sorrow. And impressive present with awake eyes in their white powdered faces.


Excerpt from the review by Hilde Halvorsrød in Scenekunst.no

–  Both the baby’s sensory world and the opera’s uniqueness are taken seriously in Orpheus’ Comfort

–  The well-thought-out mixture of absurd and concrete, known and unknown works on several levels and creates a cozy and strange, small universe with room for both adults and children


Excerpts from the review by Sunniva Thomassen, Periskop

–  The moves are well done and make the performance work on the children’s terms.

 – The totality of the two performances seems more important than the individual elements, which also makes the operas so successful.

–  Amor ś Ease and Orfeus ́ Comfort complements each other, and are strangeluniform and different at the same time. 


Full review by Hilde Halvorsrød

Review at www.scenekunst.no

By Hilde Halvorsrød
September 22nd 2020 http://www.scenekunst.no/sak/opera-som-ansiktsmimikk/

HEADLINE: Opera as a facial expression
The baby opera Orpheus’ Comfort plays with baroque conventions and takes babies seriously.

Two small “baby operas” are part of a co-production between the The Norwegian Opera & Ballet and Christina Lindgren’s company, which is called Babyopera. The composers Maja Ratkje and Eivind Buene have each written a 25-minute work inspired by their respective baroque operas, Orpheus’ Comfort, based on a fragment of an aria in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orphée ed Euridice, and Amor’s Ease, written over an aria by Henry Purcells King Arthur. The project was originally presented as part of former opera director Annilese Miskimmon’s investment in newly written opera, the VOeX festival, which barely managed to be completed once before Miskimmon disappeared across the canal. Because there were few tickets for all performances for infection control reasons, Scenekunst.no unfortunately only got a ticket to Orpheus’ Comfort.

Casting pearls to the piglets?

I can not help but think that the concept of “baby opera” arouses some thoughts in advance. Admittedly, the age group is from 0–3 years, but no lower limit is stated. Does this mean that the creators hope that parents themselves understand if their babies are big enough, or do they think that it can also be something for the very, very youngest? So we are talking here potentially about beings who are quite short-sighted, lack proper deep vision and who have such a poor memory that they become completely overwhelmed every time they discover their own toes. The risk of throwing pearls to (cute little) pigs must be said to be present. Another biased question that arises is how to make something with as low a threshold as this must necessarily have, and which at the same time with a certain right can be called opera and not as often “fairytale time” or “baby theater”.

Let me just reveal at once: it is possible. Orpheus’ Comfort succeeds both in completely shackling my four-month-old baby, at the same time as it introduces and teases unmistakable opera conventions. The show’s two only performers, Silje Aker Johnsen and Elisabeth Holmertz, meet us in the foyer of the opera house wearing identical costumes that are a fine-tuned mix of baby-friendly imagination and caricatured baroque opera: They have light powder perukes, white make-up and dresses with contemporary stiffened skirts that stand out from the hips. Babies’ interest in strong colors is used for what it is worth – the

dresses are bright yellow, the shoes and gloves are signal red, and deep green flower meadows grow along the skirt edges. Slightly older children can also enjoy a row of tiny cows around the dress waist. They make gestures and dance steps in the best stylized baroque manner, while each playing a simple melody on lyres. They do not sing in the traditional sense, but repeat short tones and single syllables in bright and baby-friendly style.

Facial conversations

Eventually, they lure us into a small stage room, consisting of scenic walls set up in a corner of the foyer, where we get to sit on pillows on the floor. That way, we get right into the action, and the characters get as close as the infection control allows. It facilitates to show the babies what they think is even more exciting than strong colors, namely human faces. Aker Johnsen and Holmertz play directly on the audience with smiles, eye contact and large and clear facial expressions. My co-reviewer stares with wide eyes and smiles back – this is a language she knows.

But she has not yet fully realized that things that disappear from her field of vision continue to exist, and therefore the play’s “great drama” probably passed her by: One character disappears several times out of the stage room, to the great disappointment of the other, but then there are strange and exciting sounds from the other side of the wall: bells ring, plastic crackles and the two characters sing to each other, before the missing one returns. I would think it’s spot on for slightly older babies who have just cracked that code, but it undoubtedly seemed that the visual and sonic impressions fascinated even without this context.

Subtle use of music

Music is perhaps the element used with the greatest care. It consists only of the simple sporadic strumming of the lyre and of the sparse fragmentary song of the two actors. Only in a few places do they sing a few longer sequences with full voice, which appears as the culmination that the fragments have built up to. If I were to point to something I missed, there might be some more extensive use of music, perhaps especially singing, but it is quite possible it is sufficient for the little ones.

In all cases, both the baby’s sensory world and the opera’s uniqueness are taken seriously in Orpheus’ Comfort, and are met in communication through living bodies and voices. The well-thought-out mixture of absurd and concrete, known and unknown works on several levels and creates a cozy and strange, small universe with room for both adults and children. The critic baby was neither hectically geared up nor comatose exhausted afterwards, and that is probably the best review she can give.



Premiere at the Norwegian Opera & Ballet September 10th 2020

For more information, please visit: https://operaen.no/en/Productions/orpheus-comfort-opera-for-babies/