Orfeo E Eurydice





In three acts by GLUCK.



Text by RANIERO DI CALZABIGI.





This opera is the oldest of all we possess in our repertoire. Gluck

had already written more than forty operas, of which we do not even

know the names now, when he composed his Orfeo, breaking with the old

Italian traditions and showing a new and more natural taste. All the

charm of Italian melody is still to be found in this composition, but

it is blent with real feeling, united to great strength of expression

and its value is enhanced by a total absence of all those superfluous

warbles and artificial ornaments, which filled the Italian operas of

that time. The libretto, taken from the old and beautiful Greek

tragedy, is as effective as the music.







Orpheus, the celebrated Greek musician and singer has lost his wife

Eurydice. His mournful songs fill the groves where he laments, and

with them he touches the hearts not only of his friends but of the

gods. On his wife's grave Amor appears to him, and bids him descend

into Hades, where he is to move the Furies and the Elysian shadows with

his sweet melodies, and win back from them his lost wife.



He is to recover her on a condition, which is, that he never casts a

look on her on their return to earth, for if he fail in this, Eurydice

will be for ever lost to him.



Taking his lyre and casque Orpheus promises obedience and with renewed

hope sallies forth on his mission. The second act represents the gates

of Erebus, from which flames arise. Orpheus is surrounded by furies

and demons, who try to frighten him; but he, nothing daunted, mollifies

them by his sweet strains, and they set free the passage to Elysium,

where Orpheus has to win the happy shadows. He beholds Eurydice among

them, veiled, the happy shadows readily surrender her to him, escorting

the pair to the gates of their happy vale.



The third act beholds the spouses on their way back to earth. Orpheus

holds Eurydice by the hand, drawing the reluctant wife on, but without

raising his eyes to her face, on and on through the winding and obscure

paths, which lead out of the infernal regions. Notwithstanding his

protestations of love and his urgent demands to her to follow

him, Eurydice never ceases to implore him to cast a single look on her,

threatening him with her death, should he not fulfil her wish.

Orpheus, forbidden to tell her the reason of his strange behaviour,

long remains deaf to her cruel complaints, but at last he yields, and

looks back, only to see her expire under his gaze. Overwhelmed by

grief and despair Orpheus draws his sword to destroy himself, when Amor

appears, and stays the fatal stroke.



In pity for Orpheus' love and constancy he reanimates Eurydice

(contrary however to the letter of the Greek tragedy) and the act

closes with a beautiful chorus sung in Amor's praise.





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