Orfeo – Gluck

26, 27 and 28 February 2009, 8.30pm
New College Ante-Chapel

Tickets from the Oxford Playhouse 01865 305 305 and on the door

Orfeo: Joe Bolger
Euridice: Anna Sideris
Amor: Robyn Parton

Musical Director: Nicholas Pritchard
Chorus Director: Nicholas Daly
Producer: Michael Burden

New Chamber Opera will be performing the work in the English translation by Walter Ducloux published by G. Schirmer, Inc. The performance will use the Ducloux version, further arranged for Studio performance.

Plot Summary:
Orfeo laments the death of his wife Euridice as he is joined by a group of shepherds and nymphs who mourn her death in a sombre chorus. After sending them away, he fumes about the cruelty of the gods, resolving to bring her back from the underworld. The God of Love Amor appears, revealing that he can reclaim his wife from Hades on the condition that he must neither look at her not explain his bizarre behaviour until they have returned to Earth. Upon his descent to the underworld, Orfeo is stopped by the Furies but appeases them with his singing accompanied by his lyre. Moved, they allow him to enter the enchanting Elysian Fields where he pleads to the Blessed Spirits to bring Euridice to him and they grant his wish. Orfeo leads Euridice away hurriedly without looking at her, instilling fear in Euridice that he no longer loves her as he refuses to explain himself. Unable to bear her sorrowful pleas, Orfeo turns to look at her and she dies immediately. A grief-stricken Orfeo is about to take his life when Amor interrupts and brings Euridice back to life in reward for his unwavering faithfulness. The lovers are reunited, and the power of love is celebrated by all.
Historical Notes:
Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera in three acts composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck, was originally set to an Italian libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi and was first performed in Vienna 1762. Based on a Thracian myth, this opera can be categorised under azionie teatrale – Italian for ‘theatrical action/plot’ – and is the first of Gluck’s three reform operas. Both Gluck and Calzabigi were influenced by the French tragédie en musique and the reformist ideas of Francesco Algarotti, and thus set out to reform the elaborate Italian opera seria with ‘noble simplicity’, and with a stronger emphasis on drama instead of music, dance or setting. This reformist approach is reflected in the absence of the common features of opera seria such as da capo arias, secco recitatives accompanied by the continuo only, the rigid structure of alternating recitatives and arias, and a complex plot with sub-plots. While there is a more varied and flexible use of recitatives coupled with self-contained arias to drive a simplified plot, the chorus and the orchestra assume a much more significant role than before in Italian opera. Orfeo ed Euridice has undergone numerous revisions, including a 1774 French version by Gluck, and a 1859 hybrid version by Berlioz which is perhaps most widely-known and performed today, but NCO will present the original Italian version – the milestone in the history of opera.

Jasmine Chin