Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

Harry Kupfer (stage director), Hartmut Haenchen (music director) – With Jochen Kowalski (Orfeo) and Gillian Webster (Euridice) – Covent Garden

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Harry Kupfer — Stage director

Willibald Kammer — Lighting

Hans Schavernoch — Set designer

Eleonore Kleiber — Costumes

Jochen Kowalski — Orfeo

Gillian Webster — Euridice

Jeremy Budd — Amor

Jean-Pierre Blanchard — Orfeo double

William Edwards — Amor Double

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Hartmut Haenchen — Music director

Royal Opera Chorus

Robin Stapleton — Chorus director

Program notes

Gluck's masterwork Orfeo ed Euridice, in an outstanding production by Harry Kupfer, sung in Italian.

Euridice is dead. Her husband Orfeo is overwhelmed with grief and is longing for death. But Love intervenes and tells Orfeo that he can bring back his wife from the underworld, on the condition that he does not turn back to see her on the their way back to the living world. Orfeo takes on the quest. Begging before the chorus of the Furies, Orfeo is eventually admitted into the underworld and meets his wife. But on their journey back, Euridice is worried by her husband's indifference: "Beloved husband, will you leave me thus? I am consumed with grief; will you not console me?" Willing to comfort his wife, Orfeo turns back. Euridice expires in her husband's arms.

Premiered in 1762, Orfeo ed Euridice is a turning point in the history of opera. Freeing the plot from the conventions of the 18th century opera seria, Gluck introduces fluidity in the drama. The rigid alternation of aria and recitativo is abandonned; continity and unity are the cornerstones of Gluck's reform, and the lesson is learned by the following generation of opera composers, like Berlioz and Wagner. Besides, celebrated for its melodic invention, Orfeo ed Euridice gave to the lyric repertoire one of its most famous arias "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" ("Che farò senza Euridice" in the Italian version) and some of the most important pieces for choir...

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