Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice)
  • Christoph Willibald von Gluck. Azione teatrale in three acts. 1762.
  • Libretto by Ranieri de'Calzabigi.
  • First performance at the Burgtheater, Vienna, on 5th October 1762.
CHARACTERS
Orfeo (Orpheus) male alto
Euridice (Eurydice), his wife soprano
Amore (Cupid) soprano

Nymphs and shepherds celebrate the funeral rites of Eurydice, assisted by Orpheus, who laments her loss and reproaches the gods with cruelty. Cupid tells him that he may, if he can, bring her back from the dead by the power of music, but must not look at her until she is in the land of the living again. He encounters demons and Furies as he descends, calming them with his music, before entering the Elysian fields, where the blessed spirits dance. Eurydice questions him and faints, as they try to leave, causing him to look round, at which she dies once more. He laments this turn of events, comforted by Cupid, who, rewarding his obvious fidelity, restores Eurydice to life once more. The opera ends in a celebration at the temple of Cupid.

Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) is the first of Gluck's reform operas, collaborations with Ranieri de'Calzabigi, in which composer and poet aimed at a noble classical simplicity, avoiding what Gluck described in his preface to Alceste as the abuses of excessive ornamentation and other elements that pandered to the vanity of singers. Instrumental excerpts from the opera, which have appeared over the years in a variety of other arrangements, must include the famous Dance of the Blessed Spirits, which is preceded in the opera by the contrasting Dance of the Furies. Most moving is the lament of Orpheus when Eurydice has died a second time, Che farò senza Euridice (What am I to do without Eurydice).