Opera Scotland

Orpheus and Euridice Orfeo ed Euridice

Music
Christoph Willibald Gluck (born Erasbach, 2 July 1714; died Vienna, 15 November 1787)

Text
Raniero da Calzabigi. Revised version by Pierre Louis Moline.

Source
Classical legend.

Premieres

First performance: Vienna (Burgtheater), 5 October 1762.

Revised version: Paris (Opéra), 2 August 1774.

Version revised by Berlioz: Paris (Théâtre Lyrique), 19 November 1859.

First UK performance: London (King’s Theatre), 7 April 1770.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 11 September 1893.

Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 17 October 1979.

 

Background
Gluck and his collaborator Calzabigi were determined to introduce a new style of dramatic composition. The simplicity of the Viennese version can make it very effective in performance. Orphée, the revision for Paris, involved the addition of some new music and the transposition of Orpheus’s part for the French form of high tenor. Subsequent performances were adjusted to include music by various other composers such as J C Bach, Anfossi, Handel and others. In 1859, Berlioz produced a composite edition for Pauline Viardot, retaining most of the additions from Gluck’s French revision, but reinstating the alto tessitura from Vienna. That is the version most commonly employed since.

Characters
Orfeo (alto or tenor)
Amor (soprano)
Euridice (soprano)

Plot Summary
Nymphs and shepherds mourn at the tomb of Euridice. Orpheus is inconsolable. Amor appears, to announce that Jove has given approval for Orpheus to go down to Hades to bring Euridice back to the mortal world. He must pacify the Furies by means of his music. However he must not look back at her during the journey to the surface, or he will lose her forever. The Furies are indeed pacified by his music and let him pass. He reaches the Elysian Fields, where Euridice and the other spirits dance calmly. Euridice now leaves to follow him to the surface. As they walk, she becomes distressed because Orpheus seems to ignore her. When Orpheus can endure this no longer, he looks back, and Euridice immediately dies. Amor is moved at the heart-broken nature of Orpheus’s reaction, and Euridice is once again restored to life.

The Cast

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