As the overture begins, a woman in red appears high above the stage and makes a slow descent on two aerial ropes, creating evocative acrobatic shapes as she goes, while mist swirls behind her. Eurydice is making her descent into the Underworld.

So begins Yaron Lifschitz’s scintillating staging of Gluck’s opera Orpheus & Eurydice, which features contemporary circus artists performing alongside the singers.

Orpheus & Eurydice

Christophe Dumaux as Orpheus and the Circa ensemble in Orpheus & Eurydice, Opera Australia and Sydney Festival, 2024. Photo © Keith Saunders

Gluck’s opera, which premiered in Vienna in 1762, included a number of ballet scenes, so it’s not too much of a leap to introduce acrobatics as a way to explore the mythical story. And it works, adding a fresh, exciting, visceral dynamism to the storytelling.

The production was first staged in 2019 by Opera Queensland in association with the Brisbane-based contemporary circus company Circa, of which Lifschitz is Artistic Director. Now, Opera Australia and Sydney Festival are presenting that production as part of the Sydney Summer Season programmed by Lindy Hume.

The story of Orpheus, who is given permission by the Furies to descend into...