Orpheus In The Underworld
Comic Opera in 3 Acts by H. Cremieux & Ludovic Halevy
Composer: Offenbach, Jacques 1819 - 1880
English Version by Geoffrey Dunn
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: Thebes, ancient Greece. Eurydice is having an affair with the shepherd boy Aristaeus, and she is busy decorating Aristaeus’ cottage when her husband, Orpheus, appears. She tells him she loves Aristaeus, and that she cannot stand Orpheus’ fiddle-playing. Orpheus, bored of marriage, would love to relinquish Eurydice, but Public Opinion would not allow it. Following Aristaeus into a cornfield, Eurydice suffers a snake bite, and Aristaeus turns into his real self: Pluto, Lord of Hades. Eurydice dies but Pluto brings her briefly back to life so she can leave a farewell note for Orpheus. Pluto takes her down to his underworld realm. Orpheus is pleased to be rid of his wife, but Public Opinion demands that Orpheus go down to Hades to get Eurydice back. On Mount Olympus, Mercury, messenger of the gods, arrives to tell of the news of Eurydice’s death. Orpheus enters with Public Opinion, who wants to ensure that Orpheus does the honourable thing - ask Jupiter to restore his wife to him. When Orpheus and the gods arrive in Hades, Pluto’s gaoler Styx locks Eurydice in a back room. As there is no sign of her, Jupiter puts the abduction question before a tribunal. What he really wants, though, is to have the beautiful Eurydice for himself. Eurydice attends a party disguised as a follower of Bacchus, god of wine, but Pluto realises who she is and blocks Jupiter’s path when he tries to make off with her. Jupiter tells Orpheus he can take his wife away, but only if he does not look back at her as they go. Orpheus fails this test, and Pluto claims Eurydice. Jupiter, however, takes her away by announcing that he is turning her into a real bacchante. Everyone, except Pluto and Public Opinion, is delighted and the Can-Can is again danced by all the gods and goddesses.
3 (1,2,3 dbl picc).2.2.2. / 18.104.22.168. / timp / perc / hp / str
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