High praise for Orpha Phelan's French debut and John Chest's return to Opéra National de Lorraine in Bernard Herrmann's Wuthering Heights

9 May 2019

Orpha Phelan's production of Wuthering Heights, composed by Bernard Herrmann, has opened to great acclaim at the Opéra National de Lorraine as Emily Brontë's novel is brought to life. John Chest (Heathcliff) returns to the company following his successful house debut as Fritz Die tote Stadt:

“Sometimes we want to dissect shows - know what's wrong, and remember beautiful things. But when you realize that you will have almost nothing negative to say about an almost perfect evening, you put your cynicism in the closet. Wuthering Heights, by Bernard Herrmann, on stage at the Opéra National de Lorraine, is of this ilk. To see and hear this production of Orpha Phelan is a total explosion to the heart in a staging that seems like perfection. Orpha Phelan is simply fantastic because she integrates the essence of text, angle and cinematography in authentic theatre and visual magnificence. The impressive set - a mad floor of mountains and sheer cliffs is poetic also; this production praises the inner richness of its characters by connecting them to lighting of breathtaking beauty, on which rests the darker perspective of tomorrow.”
“John Chest internalizes Heathcliff’s rage as a rejected man and combines intense emotions with relentlessly appealing vocal lines that reveal his character’s innermost thoughts. The soprano and baritone deliver a stunningly tragic love duet at the end of the fourth act.”

Thibault Vicq, Opera Online

“The French premiere of Wuthering Heights at Nancy's Opéra national de Lorraine is in an eye-catching production of Orpha Phelan. In the best Anglo-Saxon theatrical tradition, the work of the director is particularly appreciated in the precision and care of the stage direction of the performers.”
“The protagonists in Nancy are the excellent Layla Claire and John Chest who are perfectly attuned to the spirit of the production”

Stefano Nardelli, Giornale della Musica

“The production looked after by Orpha Phelan and a young and enthusiastic cast ensured the success of the show.”
“As Heathcliff, John Chest is impressive in his intensity, power, rage and pain, singing with a consistently full and homogenous sound.”

Michel Thomé, Res Musica

“Orpha Phelan’s interpretation, quite literally, has the advantage of aesthetics (including through dreamlike projections on the backdrop)”

Damien Dutilleul, Olyrix

“Less monstrous and less elusive in the opera than in the novel, Heathcliff is portrayed by John Chest, whose debut in Nancy was well received in Die tote Stadt. The American baritone shows the power of his voice here, rather than just the timbral qualities displayed in the Korngold.”

Laurent Buryu, ForumOpera.com

“The creative staging by a talented team carries off supremely the climate of wild purity and satanism of Emily Brontë's literary work.”

“Baritone John Chest is irreproachable, expressing a complete palette of feelings in the role of Heathcliff. The voice goes from chilling darkness to cautious jealousy with an unsettling ease that almost makes the character endearing.”

Christian Dalzon, Concertonet.com

“The production focuses first on a dramaturgical credibility, going so far as to double up the three characters at the beginning of the story with their childish counterparts, skillfully combining memory and realism. In this Wuthering Heights of Nancy, the artistic forces are in tune.”


“Outside and interior spaces merge on the stage, where the wooden waves of Madeleine Boyd's decor evoke as much the Yorkshire hills as the floor of some bourgeois living room. In this sober setting, Orpha Phelan directs a show combining an absolute loyalty to the narrative with a great precision in the painting of the characters. The recurring presence of childish doubles of protagonists evokes opportunely their young years.”


"In her staging, Orpha Phelan played - and succeeded - the cinematographic map; it's like being in front of a movie in cinemascope and technicolor. Sensitive to the many evocations of nature in the libretto, Phelan imagined a setting dominated by wood, where the limits between the outside and the inside are blurred… all this is supremely charming.”

Crescendo Magazine

“The Irish director Orpha Phelan and her team imagined a unique production: a giant wavy floor that recalls the curves of the landscape echoing the instability of relationships between characters, nineteenth-century costumes, perfect readability on the stage, elegant play of light, clever use of video: the show exquisitely matches the music. Let's hope that this first French staging will have a sequel.”

Les Echos.fr

The trailer can be viewed here. Photo credit: ©C2images

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