Pegasus Early Music to present Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo: “the power of music, the strength of love”

Pegasus Early Music is thrilled to announce a first for Rochester: a premiere production of Monteverdi’s 1607 opera, or “tale in music”, L’Orfeo. This ground-breaking opera is based on the myth of Orpheus which has fascinated story-tellers and listeners for millennia. In keeping with Pegasus’ reputation as “Highly unique…always original”  (D&C), this is something that hasn’t been seen in Rochester or our region before, and is something unique and different.

Three performances will be given at the Hart Theater at the Wolk JCC, 1200 Edgewood Road, Rochester, NY. The dates are August 26 and 27 at 7:30pm, and August 28 at 3:00pm. Ticket information below. The opera will be sung in Italian, with translations projected above the stage.

Monteverdi’s work, considered the first “real” opera, still has the power to captivate audiences over 400 years later, with its universal story, virtuosic expressive music, and colorful orchestration. Pegasus Artistic Director Deborah Fox says, “the themes in the opera of love and loss, human weakness and strength, redemption and the power of music, remain relevant today and will resonate profoundly with our audiences, especially after the collective experience of the pandemic.”

This is the first professional production in Rochester of this stunning work, which features 13 singers and 4 dancers. The orchestra of 19 players is made of up strings and winds as well as some unusual early music instruments, including the double harp, recorders, theorbos (a bass lute), harpsichord, organ, cornetti (a curved early form of trumpet), and early trombones, known as sackbuts.  Monteverdi’s soundworld is intimate and colorful, and the orchestra will be sitting in front of the stage, providing great visuals for the audience.

As Orfeo, famous for his musical prowess, joyfully celebrates his marriage to Euridice, a messenger brings the news that she has died. Orfeo travels the treacherous path to the Underworld to win her back—with his seductively entrancing music —only to lose her again because of his own doubt. Eventually escorted by the god Apollo, he ascends to the heavens where he can be reunited in the stars with his Euridice. A cast of shepherds, nymphs, spirits, and gods support the flow of the drama with dance, heartfelt solos, and dynamic choruses, that comment on and interpret the action.

Our cast and orchestra are drawn from the very finest musicians around the globe and in Rochester. Pegasus is excited to introduce world-renowned tenor Colin Balzer in the virtuosic and dramatically expressive role of Orfeo, the singer who must travel to Hell and back to regain his beloved Euridice; Balzer himself will travel here from his home in Augsburg, Germany.  Cornettist Bruce Dickey will come from Italy, and Pegasus regulars Boel Gidholm (violin) and Christopher Haritatos (cello) will join us from their homes in the South Wedge. Dancers from the Rochester City Ballet will also be a part of the production.

“We are so honored to be able to present this production with such a talented roster of world-class musicians, all converging in upstate New York. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event!” says Fox.

In a plus for movie buffs, Pegasus will be collaborating with the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman Museum as they curate an Orpheus film series leading up to our opera, in July and August, with live music beforehand from Pegasus. “This is a great example of our Rochester arts organizations collaborating in an artistic celebration of a timeless story,” says Fox. More information here!

For this production, Pegasus Early Music has raised over $280,000 that will be put into the community as fifty artists and crew members live and work here for up to three weeks. Pegasus has received grants in support of this opera project nationally, from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lennox Foundation; statewide from the New York State Council on the Arts; and locally, from Monroe County funders including the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the Gouvernet Arts Fund, the Dawn Lipson Fund at the Community Foundation, and the Farash Foundation. Generous patrons have also contributed their support for Pegasus.

“We couldn’t have done this without such incredible support from our community,” says Fox. “We are so grateful and look forward to giving back with beautiful music and a production that will appeal to people’s emotions.”

More information at
Contact Deborah Fox, [email protected] or 585-703-3990 for information on interviews, rehearsal video, etc.
Photographs here for download

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