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Orfeo ed Euridice

From Academic Kids

Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck. The libretto was written by Ramieri de Calzabigi. It was first performed in Vienna on October 5, 1762.

The opera is the first by Gluck showing signs of his ambition to reform opera seria. Self-contained numbers (aria, choruses and so on) make way for shorter pieces strung together to make larger structural units. Da capo arias are notable by their absence; Gluck instead uses strophic form (in act one's "Chiamo il mio ben cosi", for example, in which each verse is interposed with dramatic recitatives) and rondo form (in act three's famous "Che faro senza Euridice?"), and simple recitatives accompanied only by the basso continuo are also absent. On the whole, old operatic conventions are disregarded in favour of giving the action dramatic impetus.

For a 1774 Paris production of the work, Gluck expanded and rewrote parts of the opera, creating a new version, Orphée. He also changed the role of Orpheus from a part for a castrato to one for high tenor (the French never used castrati). In the 19th century, Hector Berlioz made a version of the opera which combined the two versions - in his day, Orpheus was generally sung by a female alto or a tenor.

Orfeo ed Euridice is part of the standard operatic repertoire. There are a number of recordings of it, and it is regularly performed.

Among other operas based on the story of Orpheus and Euridice are Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo, Jacques Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld and Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus.

Contents

Synopsis

Act I

A chorus of nymphs and shepherds accompany Orfeo around Euridice's tomb in a solemn chorus of mourning. Orfeo is only able to utter Euridice's name. Orfeo sends the others away and sings of his grief in the aria "Chiamo il mio ben cosi", the three verses of which are interrupted by expressive recitatives. Amore (Cupid) appears telling Orfeo that he may go to the Underworld and return with his wife on the condition that he not look at her until they are back on earth. Orfeo resolves to take on the quest (in the 1774 version, both Amore and Orfeo have extra songs).

Act II

In a rocky landscape, the Furies refuse to admit Orfeo to the Underworld, and sing of Cerberus, canine guardian of the Underworld. When Orfeo, accompanied by his lyre (represented in the opera by a harp), begs for pity in the aria "Deh placatevi con me", he is at first interrupted by cries of "No!" from the Furies, but they are eventually softened by the sweetness of his singing and let him in. In the 1774 version, the scene ends with the "Dance of the Furies".

The new scene opens in Elysium. The 1774 version includes here the much-excerpted "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" in which a chorus sings of their happiness in eternal bliss. Orfeo finds no solace in the beauty of the surroundings, for Euridice is not yet with him. He implores the spirits to bring her to him, which they do.

Act III

On the way out of Hades, Euridice is delighted to be returning to earth, but Orfeo, remembering the condition related by Amore in Act I, lets go of her hand and refuses to look at her. Euridice takes this to be a sign that he no longer loves her, and refuses to continue, concluding that death would be preferable. Unable to take any more, Orfeo turns and looks and Euridice; she dies. Orfeo sings of his grief in the famous aria "Che faro senza Euridice?"

Orfeo decides he will kill himself to join Euridice in Hades, but Amore returns to stop him. In reward for Orfeo's continued love, Amore returns Euridice to life, and she and Orfeo are reunited. All sing in praise of Amore (in the 1774 version, this finale is greatly expanded, including a ballet).de:Orfeo ed Euridice it:Orfeo (Gluck)

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