Orfeo ed Euridice

  • Orpheus ( Altus / Haute- Contre )
  • Eurydice (soprano )
  • Amor (mezzo- soprano)
  • Chorus: shepherds and shepherdesses, Furies, blessed spirits.

Orfeo ed Euridice (English Orpheus and Eurydice ) is an opera ( " Azione drammatica " ) in three acts, which tells the story of the Thracian singer Orpheus. The music was composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the libretto by Ranieri de ' Calzabigi. The premiere took place on October 5, 1762 in Vienna, and August 2, 1774 in Paris, where the playing time of the Vienna version about two hours, the Paris version was two and a half hours.


Act I

Together with shepherds and shepherdesses wept at the grave of Orpheus Eurydice their loss. When he asks the gods for mercy, Cupid, god of love appears, with the message that Zeus (Jupiter) the singer permit the descent to Hades: If he manages to stir the Furies there with his singing, he may Eurydice back to return the survivors, under the condition that he not look around on the way back to her. Orpheus thanks, takes his lyre and makes his way.

Second Act

The singer succeeds only through persistent playing and singing, the guardian of Hades ( Cerberus ) to appease who reject him at first, but then get involved.

Transformation Orpheus enters the Elysium, the joy of the blessed spirits embraces him, but he can lay his anxiety only when his wife, lured by the sounds of his lyre appears. He closes his eyes and turns around, takes her by the hand and runs out without looking back.

Act Three

As they already come to light almost complains Eurydice, that her husband does not look at, so do not love her anymore and she would rather return to the underworld. The stirred Orpheus has no choice but to turn around, and at that moment she also breaks together. Again, he laments his suffering and wants to stab, but the unsheathed dagger snatches him Cupid reawaken Eurydice and the opera can end happily.


Orfeo ed Euridice is the first fruit of the collaboration of Gluck and his librettist Ranieri de ' Calzabigi who set themselves the goal to reform the ( Italian ) opera. It is no coincidence that the two for just the fascinating fabric of the Orpheus legend chose, which is about the power of music and of song: 150 years previously Claudio Monteverdi had with L' Orfeo ( the same substance that is ) premiered a work that one of the first (written sources) operas.

The librettist used as template mainly the Metamorphoses of Ovid, transformed the tragic end of the word substance but from: By the god of love Eros ex machina intervenes as a mediator Deus, the opera turns for the better.


At many features demonstrates the reform, which meted Gluck opera: Instead of secco recitatives, which are only supported by the basso continuo, the composer through " accompagnati ", ie accompanied by the entire string orchestra used recitatives in the opera seria only in special moments were used. The arias no longer have the formerly standard da capo form, but formally follow the dramaturgy of the text. An example is the large, three-part aria scene of Orpheus in the first act, are produced in the wide variety of orchestral moods and feelings.

The most famous pieces from the opera, the overture, the Dance of the Blessed Spirits, a ballet number in the second act, and the lament of Orpheus from the third act, 'Oh, I lost it / Che senza Euridice farò / J'ai perdu mon Eurydice

Reception history

  • The opera was first performed in Italian on October 5, 1762 in Vienna. A highlight was a performance in 1764, on the occasion of the coronation of Joseph II as Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt am Main.
  • Gluck revised the opera in Paris, where she was listed on October 2, 1774 in French with the title Orphée et Eurydice. For a taste of the Parisian audience, he composed a ballet added. He also replaced the role of Orpheus, which was written for the castrato Gaetano Guadagni old, for the singer Joseph Legros by a high tenor voice.
  • The part of Orpheus was provided by Gluck for a castrato, is now sung by a contralto or by a male alto ( countertenor ).
  • The painter Rudolf Eisenmenger elected in 1955, the opera as the main subject for the painting of the Iron Curtain in the Vienna State Opera.