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Opera Essentials: Orphée et Eurydice

Our quick introduction to Gluck’s revolutionary opera, inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

27 August 2015 at 10.53am | 9 Comments

The Story Begins…

Orphée mourns the death of his beloved Eurydice. Amour tells him that if his singing can calm the Furies, he will be able to bring her back from the Underworld. But she warns Orphée that the Gods have decreed he will lose her again if he looks at her on their return journey. Can he obey their decree?

An Inspiring Myth

Orphée et Eurydice is a reworking of the story of Orpheus, a legendary musician who features in ancient Greek religion and myth. Most operatic versions of his story (including Gluck’s, and further examples by Monteverdi and Harrison Birtwistle) have placed a strong emphasis on dance and gesture, used in a way that enhances the sense of drama inspired by communal rituals. Orpheus has also been the subject of various ballets, including one by Stravinsky.

From Vienna to Paris

Gluck originally wrote Orfeo ed Euridice in Italian for performance in Vienna in 1762. It was the first of his several ‘reform operas’ in which emotive music (including recitatives with orchestral accompaniment) and powerful drama took priority over elaborate staging and virtuosic vocal writing, and in which the chorus are given great prominence. Orfeo was a triumph. Twelve years later Gluck wrote a French version for the Paris Opéra, rewriting the castrato role of Orphée for a tenor, and expanding the ballet music. Orphée/Orfeo has remained Gluck’s best known opera. Particular highlights include the Act II Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Orphée’s ‘J’ai perdu mon Eurydice’.

The Process of Mourning

John Fulljames and Hofesh Shechter’s production focusses on Orphée’s extreme grief after his wife’s death. During the funeral rituals at the opera’s opening, Orphée refuses to accept Eurydice’s death. Only as he goes through a grieving process, which takes him through the delirium of the underworld to an ecstatic rediscovery of Eurydice, does he comes to a deeper understanding of love and an acceptance of loss.

Gluck’s Orchestra

Gluck’s orchestra would have been placed in a shallow pit at the same level as the orchestra stalls of the theatre; in this production, the orchestra appears on stage. The English Baroque Soloists are performing on period instruments – the first time the Royal Opera House has had a period band on the main stage since 2010.

Orphée et Eurydice runs 14 September–3 October 2015. Tickets are still available.

The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, and is part of #Hofest.

This article has 9 comments

  1. Coppelia responded on 27 August 2015 at 1:09pm Reply

    Is there any prospect of a online live screening of this production?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 27 August 2015 at 3:21pm

      I'm afraid there aren't any plans to stream this production.


      ROH Content Producer

  2. Martin responded on 29 August 2015 at 2:03pm Reply

    Will this be released on DVD?

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 29 August 2015 at 5:22pm

      Dear Martin

      I'm afraid that it won't, but it will be recorded for BBC Radio 3 - see the production page for details.

      Best wishes


  3. Marleen responded on 31 August 2015 at 6:13pm Reply

    Being from Belgium and not having any holidays in this periode, I was also hoping for a DVD:)

  4. Jacky Tarleton responded on 2 September 2015 at 11:24pm Reply

    I also think a DVD would be an excellent idea. This production has so many unique features and to get three such fine singers as Lucy Crowe, Juan Diego Florez and Amanda Forsythe, along with the OAE and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, is quite a coup; it deserves to be immortalised on DVD.

  5. Victoria Fernández responded on 22 September 2015 at 10:56pm Reply

    Yes, like Jacky, I think a DVD would be a fantastic idea!

  6. Harry Casson responded on 25 October 2015 at 2:29pm Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed this production on the opening night (14 Sept) and heard it again last night on Radio 3 - fantastic! It will be a great shame if this production with its beautiful singing, orchestration, dancing & extraordinary staging never appears on DVD

  7. Paula Carter responded on 23 November 2018 at 4:06pm Reply

    Please release this on DVD.

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