Opera Scotland

Orphée aux Enfers 1961Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Orpheus in the Underworld

Wendy Toye's hugely energetic production opened at Sadler's Wells Theatre on 17 May 1960 and stayed in the company's repertoire for the best part of two decades. It initiated an exploration of Offenbach's leading comic works, four of which would be seen in the sixties, the others being La belle Hélène, La vie parisienne and Bluebeard.

Sets and costumes by Malcolm Pride were bright and cheerful, to put it mildly. The packed tube train in the first act finale as the company all set off for Hades was typical of the production's high spirits. Its brash vulgarity remained hugely enjoyable for audiences, though the seemingly interminable encores of the infernal galop (or Can-Can) in the final Hades scene must surely have become a bit wearing.

Many of the chorus were given identifiable little cameos which they would repeat year after year. Eric Shilling's Jupiter also remained a fixture at most performances. The Australian tenor Jon Weaving spent the next decade in Germany, and when he returned he was singing the big Wagner roles. The part of Euridice, a none-too-bright platinum blonde trollop in a mini-skirt, remained attractive for several sopranos following Iris Kells, and in the seventies the part would be taken by two superb performers in Valerie Masterson and Norma Burrowes, long after the company had stopped touring.

Cast details for Glasgow are from a programme in the Opera Scotland collection.

Performance DatesOrphée aux Enfers 1961

Map List

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

6 Nov, 19.30 11 Nov, 14.30

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

13 Nov, 19.30 18 Nov, 14.30

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