Orphée et Eurydice
ORPHEE ET EURYDICE: A HEART-RENDING OPERA
Orphée et Eurydice is an opera characterised by sublime beauty, accessibility and elegance of style. Christoph Gluck wrote this, the most popular of his operas, in the spirit of returning to an uncluttered style of word and music. Based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and designed with dancers and chorus, it is aimed at 'a noble simplicity' and exudes beauty and tragedy.
The opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck premiered in 1762, with an Italian libretto, but in 1774 it was given a French libretto, by Pierre-Louis Moline, and somewhat adapted for French preferences.
The plot of Orphée et Eurydice is that of a grieving husband, mourning his dead wife who is then given the greatest of gifts in being told he can journey to the land of Death and then bring Eurydice back from the Underworld if only he does not look at her until they have returned to the mortal world. Orphée takes up the quest and after dangers and difficulties, finds Eurydice. Sadly she misunderstands his unwillingness to look at her, believing him to be unfaithful. Caught up in the emotions of these moments, Orphée turns to his wife, and loses her to Death once again.
This act of Orphée et Eurydice is set around the tomb of Orphée's wife Eurydice, with a chorus of pastoral characters singing in mourning. Orphée then expresses his love and longing in 'Objet de Mon Amour.' Amour, the little god of love, appears and allows him to go and fetch Eurydice, alive, from the Underworld.
He joyfully accepts, knowing from Amour that his grief will soon be over.
In the dangerous lands near the Underworld, Orphée contests with the chorus of Furies and their song of Cerberus, the dog who guards the entrance to Hades. They refuse him until he sings so sweetly with his lyre that they are won over to his cause. A dancing chorus of Furies allows him past.
The glorious 'Dance of the Blessed Spirits' opens Scene 2 which is set in Elysium. This is followed by the aria of joyful eternity usually sung by Eurydice. When Orphée arrives he is struck by the beauty and freshness surrounding him, but is not comforted by it until after beseeching the spirits, they bring Eurydice to him.
As the couple make their way from the Underworld, Orphée remains without explanation to his wife and looses his hand from hers. She interprets this as coldness and lack of love and despairing of his perceived unfaithfulness sings of her breaking heart. Orphée can bear it no longer and turns to her, only to have her lost to Death again. He sings of his re-doubled grief in the haunting 'Jai perdu mon Eurydice' [I have lost my Eurydice].
THE MAIN ROLES
Orphée: Son of Apollo and Calliope, wonderful lute player, Male Contralto
Eurydice: Orphée's wife, daughter of a shepherd. Soprano
Amour: God of love,Eros, Cupid. Soprano
A Happy Spirit: Soprano
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