10 Jan 2008


Orphée: Opera in four acts.

Music composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck (arranged by Hector Berlioz, 1859). Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi

First Performance:
Italian Version 5 October 1762, Burgtheater, Vienna
French Version 2 August 1774, Paris Opéra

Principal Characters:
Italian version
Orfeo Alto Castrato
(Mezzo-Soprano (Berlioz version))
Euridice, his wife Soprano
Amore Soprano

French version
Orphée Tenor
Eurydice, his wife Soprano
Amour Soprano

Time and Place: Ancient Thrace


At Eurydice’s funeral, Orphée’s grief turns to rage against the gods. Amour tells the distraught musician that he will be allowed to descend to the underworld to retrieve his wife if, through his music, he can appease the Furies.

There is a second condition that must be fulfilled if he is to return Eurydice to Earth; he must not look back at her during the journey out of the underworld, nor may he explain to her the reason for his apparent indifference. Orphée has no choice but to consent to the terms.

He subdues the Furies with his music and is permitted to enter the Elysian Fields. There, he meets Eurydice and begins to lead her back to Earth. Eurydice, unable to comprehend her spouse’s apparent indifference, becomes jealous and impatient, and is finally so overcome with frustration that she faints.

Orphée turns, looks, and loses her. He is distraught and on the brink of taking his own life, when Amour appears and restores the faithful lovers to each other.