Synopsis: Orfeo ed Euridice

von Christoph Willibald Gluck

Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus stands before Eurydice's tomb, lost in grief. Coming to his senses, he resolves to rescue his love from Hades. Amor (Love) comforts him, telling him that with love anything can be overcome. However, she imposes conditions. When leading Eurydice from Hell, he must let go of her hand and not look upon her until they have reached the earth's surface again.

Orpheus approaches Hades, where the Furies sing of Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hell. The beauty of his singing finally elicits their compassion and they allow him safe passage. He arrives in Elysium (during which, in the 1774 version, is heard the famous "Dance of the Blessed Spirits") and sings of the beauty that surrounds him, but also of its emptiness, as he cannot find Eurydice. She is brought to him blindfolded and they prepare
to leave.

On a path leading out of Hades, Eurydice reproaches Orpheus for what she takes to be his coldness and suggests that death would have been preferable. Unable to bear her laments, Orpheus turns to look at her, and Eurydice dies. Orpheus is prevented from killing himself by Love, who, bringing Eurydice back to life, reunites the lovers. The opera ends with a chorus in praise of Love.
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