Orpheus In The Underworld

Composer: Offenbach, Jacques 1819 - 1880

Version: Operatic Society version - translation by Phil Park, music adapted by Ronald Hanmer

Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld), first performed in 1858, is said to be the first classical full-length operetta, and is arguably Offenbach’s most popular work. An irreverent parody of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), and scathing satire on many aspects of French society and politics, the operetta is internationally famous for its risqué galop infernal, popularly known as the ‘Can-Can’. SYNOPSIS: Orpheus is a professor of music and a superb violinist. His wife, Eurydice, is bored, and spends her time with a bee keeper called Aristaeus, who lives across the road.  Aristaeus is really Pluto, the King of the Underworld, paying a visit to Earth incognito. Pluto arranges for a snake to give Eurydice a fatal bite, thus ensuring her departure to the Underworld.  Orpheus is delighted, but his mother, Calliope, a determined woman, is shocked that he should accept his wife’s death so happily, and she decides that he is to make a stand. Calliope and Orpheus set out for Mount Olympus to lodge a formal complaint before the Gods. On Mount Olympus the Gods are bored, especially with Jupiter’s autocratic leadership. Mercury’s daily stories of the outside world are always welcome, and today’s tale of the death of Eurydice gives them all something to talk about. They unhesitatingly declare Pluto guilty. Jupiter decides to pay an official visit to the Underworld, taking the others with him. Meanwhile, Eurydice is finding the Underworld dull. On his return to his kingdom, Pluto organises a Festival of the Underworld, to include revels on a grand scale.  Jupiter discovers Eurydice and, with Cupid’s assistance, has a tête-à-tête with her. After the revels, Jupiter, again with Cupid’s assistance, comes to a decision about Eurydice’s return to Earth, and makes a rather surprising, pronouncement….. 




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