When Romeo Castellucci first listened to Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, what sprang to mind was a bed in a white hospital room. As the Italian theatre director carried on studying the opera, suggested as a future project by La Monnaie's Peter de Caluwe, he couldn't shake off that initial image.
So he began to investigate the possibility of using a real-life coma patient in the role of Euridice, who is suspended in limbo at the opera's start. He expected to be rebuffed, but to his surprise medical professionals were enthusiastic about the project, as were the families of the two patients eventually selected to play the role.
Euridice is performed in Vienna by 25 year old Karin Anna Giselbrecht, a local hospital patient in a persistent vegetative state. The music is played to her and video cameras relay her image to the stage, while Christiane Karg sings. There is a reprise in Brussels next month, when the part will be taken by a Belgian stroke victim named Els, who has locked-in syndrome.