Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld

Opéra-bouffe staged by Laurent Pelly, conducted by Marc Minkowski – With Natalie Dessay and Yann Beuron (Lyon, 1998)

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Laurent Pelly — Stage director

Agathe Melinand — Rewriting of the dialogs

Chantal Thomas — Set designer

Michel Dussarat — Costume designer

Laurent Pelly — Costume designer

Dominique Boivin — Choreographer

Joël Adam — Lighting

Natalie Dessay — Eurydice

Yann Beuron — Orpheus

Laurent Naouri — Jupiter

Jean-Paul Fouchécourt — Pluto / Aristaeus

Martine Olmeda — Public Opinion

Steven Cole — John Styx

Cassandre Berthon — Cupid

Etienne Lescroart — Mercury

Virginie Pochon — Diana

Lydie Pruvot — Juno

Program notes

In his famous "opera bouffe" Orpheus in the Underworld, Jacques Offenbach explores in a comic way the tragic story of lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. It is staged here by Laurent Pelly at the Opéra National de Lyon and performed by Natalie Dessay (Eurydice) and Yann Beuron (Orpheus).

In this funny version of Orphée's ancient myth, his highly famous complaint "I have lost my Eurydice" seems to be a victory roar... In this opera composed after a libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy, premiered in 1858 at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, Offenbach and the librettists give characters back to life in a highly humorous way.

It is the story of a domestic squabble between bitter lovers Eurydice and Orpheus: Eurydice is fed up with Orpheus musical talent, but they cannot break off. So that Orpheus decides to ask shepherd Aristaeus – who is Pluto himself disguised – for his help. He wants him to seduce Eurydice to lead her die in a trap. Eurydice dies and goes to the Underworld. Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, but Public Opinion comes to moralize Orpheus: he must save his honour in saving Eurydice...

The fanciful staging perfectly highlights Offenbach's Genius and humor: indeed he was the composer who created the genre of French "opéra bouffe". Natalie Dessay and Yann Beuron remarkably perform this opera with voices full of expressiveness and a beautiful stage presence. They really transform this domestic squabble into a funny story.

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