Orpheus & Eurydice - Christoph Willibald Gluck - English National Opera

I went to the Coliseum on 25 September 2001 to see the ENO in Gluck's Orpheus & Eurydice, conducted by Harry Legge. The work was first performed in 1762 in Vienna. The original text is by Ranieri Calzabigi, but has been translated to English by Ann Ridler. Twelve years later, Gluck revised the work for a production in French at the Paris Opera, where it was an enormous success.

Act 1, Scene 1: A Grove by Eurydice's Tomb:Eurydice has died and Orpheus blames the gods for their severity. The mourners depart and the bereaved Orpheus (a musician) calls to his wife, but only his echo answers him. He can take no more and his grief gives way to anger. He resolves to journey to the Underworld and reclaim Eurydice from the dead.

Scene 2: Amor appears:Orpheus has permission to enter the forbidden region of the dead. Eros the God of Love brings a message from Zeus saying that if he can placate the inhabitants (the Furies) with his singing, that Eurydice and he will be reunited. However, a condition is imposed: Orpheus must not look at his wife until they have crossed the River Styx, otherwise she will be lost to forever. Moreover, he must not tell her of this prohibition. Orpheus foresees Eurydice's distress at his behaviour at their reunion.

Act 2, Scene 1: Entrance to the Underworld: Orpheus stands on the forbidding threshold of the Underworld as the Furies try to bar his way, but his sublime singing is soothing to the dispossessed beings. Eventually, they allow him to continue his journey.

Scene 2: Pastoral Landscape in Elysian Fields: Orpheus marvels at the radiance of the other world's calm surroundings. Eurydice is restored to him by the blessed spirits and he is careful not to look at her and together they journey back to the land of the living.

Act III, Scene 1: A gloomy mountain with a cave: Orpheus urges Eurydice to hurry and follow him. She can not comprehend his unusual and impatient behaviour and doubts his love. She rebukes him for his apparent infidelity. Eurydice is close to fainting; Orpheus succumbs at last to look at her and she immediately dies in his arms. He inveighs against such cruelty and laments once again the death of his beloved wife. Inconsolable at his unrecoverable loss, he prepares to kill himself. He sings the opera's most famous aria: "Che faro senza Eurydice?" ("what is life without you"). He is interrupted by Amor who declares that Orpheus has given enough proof of his fidelity and the Eurydice will be restored to life immediately.

Scene 2: Orpheus, Eurydice and Amor celebrate, along with their companions and followers, the couple's return. Eros blesses them at the altar and the choir sings the praises of the God of Love, in the Temple of Eros.


Verinha Ottoni.


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