Amour (Cupid), messenger of the gods, announces to Orpheus that he will be permitted to descend to the Underworld to rescue his beloved, Eurydice. His music brings light to the shadows and pacifies the Furies, but it cannot soothe the fears of Eurydice when faced with the indifference Orpheus must feign in order to assure her safe passage back to the land of the living... This four-act opera, based on a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline, premiered on November 19, 1859, at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris; Berlioz, a great admirer of Gluck, borrowed from the original French and popular Italian settings of Gluck's masterpiece and synthesized this version for legendary mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, whose voice harkened back to the bygone era of the castrati who had sung the title role in Gluck's day.
The work's beauty owes as much to the intensity of the arias as to the eloquence of the orchestra and the spectacular contributions by the chorus, masterfully directed here by Raphaël Pichon. Stage director Aurélien Bory makes great use of the symbolic motif of the gaze, like that cast by Orpheus on Eurydice, whom he is doomed to lose. In the first act, a huge mirror makes the audience conscious of their own spectatorship, and in the Underworld, the set undergoes a change in perspective that reflects the cruel twist of fate to which the hero will fall victim. Following her widely lauded turn in Fantasio, Marianna Crebassa stuns in the title role here, marvelously supported by Hélène Guilmette as Eurydice and Lea Desandre as Amour.