Summary Christoph Willibald Gluck. Orpheus


Opera in three acts

Libretto by R. Calzabigi and de Molina





Tenor (mezzo soprano)



Shepherds, cowherds, furies, hellish spirits, blissful shadows.

The plot is borrowed from the ancient myth.


In the beautiful secluded grove of laurels and cypresses – the tomb of Eurydice. Orpheus laments his girlfriend. Shepherds and cowherds, sympathizing with him, call on the spirit of the deceased to hear the groaning of the spouse. They kindle sacrificial fire, decorate the monument with flowers. Orpheus asks to leave him alone with sad thoughts. In vain he calls Eurydice – only echoes the name of the beloved in the valley, forests, among the rocks. Orpheus begs the gods to

return his beloved or take his life from him.

Appears Cupid; he declares the will of Zeus: Orpheus is permitted to go to hell, and if the singer’s voice and the sounds of his lyre are moved by the wicked, he will return with Eurydice. Only one condition must be fulfilled by Orpheus: not to look at the spouse until they reach the Earth, otherwise Eurydice will be lost forever. Selfless love Orpheus is ready to withstand all the trials.

A thick dark smoke envelops the mysterious terrain, occasionally illuminated by flashes of hellfire. Furies and underground spirits start wild dancing. Appears Orpheus, who plays the lyre. The spirits try to frighten him with terrible visions. Three times Orpheus appeals to them, begging to ease his suffering. By the power of art, the singer manages to soften them. The spirits recognize themselves defeated and open Orpheus’ path to the underworld.

There is a wonderful transformation. Orpheus falls into Elysium – the beautiful realm of blessed shadows. Here he finds the shadow of Eurydice. It is alien to earthly anxieties, peace and joy of a magical country

fascinated her. Orpheus is struck by the beauty of the landscape, wonderful sounds, birds singing. But he can only be happy with Eurydice. Without looking back, Orpheus takes her hand and hurries away.

Again there is a gloomy gorge with overhanging rocks, tangled paths. Orpheus in a hurry to withdraw from it Eurydice. But the lover is distressed and alarmed: the husband never looked at her. Did he not become cool to her, did her beauty fade? The reproaches of Eurydice inflict unbearable spiritual pain on Orpheus, but he can not disobey the gods. Again and again, Eurydice begs her husband to look at her with her eyes. It’s better for her to die than to live unloved. Desperate Orpheus inferior to her requests. He looks around, and Eurydice falls dead. The desolate grief of Orpheus has no boundaries. He is ready to hit himself with a dagger, but Cupid stops him. The husband proved his loyalty, and at the behest of the gods Eurydice revives.

A crowd of shepherds and cowherd boys joyfully greets the characters, entertaining them with singing and merry dances. Orpheus, Eurydice and Cupid praise the all-conquering power of love and the wisdom of the gods.

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Summary Christoph Willibald Gluck. Orpheus