Orpheus and Euridice at Royal Danish Opera Old stage – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Christoph Willibald Gluck|Lyrics: Pierre-Louis after Calzabigi.
Premiere at Burgtheater i Wien den 5 oktober 1762. Seen the performance: 14.11.2004 Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen
Act One – On the Earth
The artist musician and composer Orpheus is mourning the loss of his beloved Euridice. Lonely and despairing, he bears his pain, which also finds expressions in the voices of the chorus, which sing through his mind: “Come back, Euridice, before the gates of death are locked behind you!”
Orpheus tries to find a way out of his tornent through his music, but cannot. He calls on his beloved but no one answers him any more. Where there was music there was hope; now there is nothing.His grief turns to anger against everything he has ever believed in – the gods, who symbolize his own innate powers: “You who have power over life and death,you rule us with inhuman madness… I will defy my fate…”
In his distress Amor comes to his aid:”You who could move stones and trees with your song, conjure the dark forces and break the grip of death. Then you will get Eurudice back.” Amor sings of the instrument, music which Orpheus masters better than any one. It is with this – music – that he can win back Euridice, her soul, her spirit. But there is one condition: if Euridice follows him, he must not look at her. If he reaches out for her body, he will lose her forever.
Trust in love; its power is great”. Orpheus is reminded of the spring, when the trees burst into leaf and the flowers open- when the musician is inspired and good thoughts are born. Love is his hope. Without it, there is no music. And without that, no Euridice. He decides to take up the challenge and accept the conditions.
Act Two-ln Hell
Grief and hope, anger and love, struggle within Orpheus. During his effort with the work he experiences a true creative battle, where his demons play their diabolical game to the utmost.What do you want here in the stony ifinity of frozen time?” asks the underground of his mind. “Rather slavery, grief,poverty, age, misfortune and scorn in the light of day than rule here with us!” But Amor has not spoken in vain.Orpheus conjures his demons with songs and music. He begs them to wake the love that once was, and to bring Euridice to him. And indeed the twilight divides.Orpheus senses his way through the pain- and in to Euridice in Elysium.
In Elysium Euridice lives in a state of infinite, serene harmony. Orpheus is moved and enraptured by the experience of this peace, where no pain exists, and where he will now meet his Euridice. But she too is part of the peace of Elysium,totally absorbed in its cold entrancement.Orpheus wants to warm her, but must not look at her – only sense her soul and spirit. Euridice sees him who must not see her. She is now faced with the dilemma whether to choose to follow him,abandoning this eternal, painless peace;but the spirits of Elysium help her on her way; gently they push her forward to Orpheus.
Act Three – The Earthly Hell
On the way out Orpheus’ and Euridice’s struggle to find each other again begins.Her longing for his passion has been aroused, but how can she believe that he still loves her when he cannot look her in the eye? In despair Orpheus hears Euridice demanding proof of his love, reminding him of the happiness they once had together.But how can she doubt his love? She seeks out his eyes, but must not reflect her gaze in this.He longs for her warmth – but in the end finds only a dead, cold body!
Now Orpheus’ world collapses:”She is dead, my Euridice – never more her smile shall warm me…”The feeling of total failure now fills him:”My day has become grey, my night is without stars. When she was close to me everything was made beautiful. Oh, that was to live, to be a poet!”Hopelessness engulfs him; the loss of Euridice is worse than before their meeting in Elysium. Orpheus decides that death shall no longer part them. He will take his own life to be united in death with Euridice.
On the Earth
But Amor, the kind god, thinks this is a very bad idea, so he intervenes with an appeal to Orpheus wisdom. Amor brings Orpheus the score of a great musical work- his work. And out of the many sheets of music emerges Euridice. Overjoyed, she passes on the work – to him.
“Where love is, beauty grows!”