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10 Jul 2009

Bright lights among the shades — The passion of Orpheus pervades a historic Aldeburgh Festival

Guy Dammann [The Times Literary Supplement, 10 July 2009]

Composers will keep revisiting the story of Orpheus: it demands operatic treatment if it is to be told properly. One must also bear in mind the rather flattering testimony the story pays to the composer’s art. By the time Gluck and Calzabigi composed what remains one of the best known operas on the subject in 1762, the number of operatic treatments stood at fifteen - and that figure not including numerous dramatic cantatas by, among others, Charpentier and Rameau. Many of the first experiments in musical theatre concerned themselves with Orpheus, although in 1600 both Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini titled their proto-operas Euridice, focusing less on the powers of the Thracian bard than on the figure whose loss inspired him to retune his lyre to immortal ears.

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