Orfeo Ed Euridice by Gluck: True love never gives up, and thus, is rewarded…

MET Opera House–Lincoln Center–Tuesday October 29th, 2019

This week, friends, we find ourselves, once again, at the MET Opera house, for a beautiful and unusual, baroque opera, by Gluck (1714-1787), an amazing masterpiece; whose compelling and modern production and choreography by Morris, was flawless; depicting eternal love’s trials and woes, through the Upper and Underworld.

Its unusual form is intriguing and thrilling: picture if you will, a unique, strange “animal” kind of artwork, an unexpected, half opera, half ballet “piece”, which is very short, to the point, and devastatingly romantic; and also, drum roll… ends much more happily, for the heroes/love birds (Orfeo and Euridice), than it does, in the classic Orpheus Greek myth!

How wonderful!

Phew!

The love birds get to be reunited!

Yay!

And American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, as Orfeo, the iconic and madly in love, hero; a poet, musician, who cannot bear to live without his adoring wife, was incredibly passionate and moving; although I must confess, I do prefer, when the singer depicting Orfeo, is male; I dream better that way; and for example, let’s listen to this wonderful rendering of Orfeo’s lament for Euridice, by a fabulous male French countertenor:

Enjoy!

And Hei-Kyung Hong, the South Korean soprano as Euridice, was incredibly heart breaking as the sweet, sensitive, loving Euridice, who cannot understand her Orfeo’s unusual stark and cold behavior towards her; which is totally uncharacteristic, of their usual loving and devoted relationship to each other.

And Hera Hyesang Park, the South Korean soprano as Amore (or Cupid), was a heartwarming and wonderfully charming god/ “goddess” .

But of course, before being reunited, first, Orfeo and Euridice have all sorts of obstacles to conquer, to be deemed worthy, of their exceptional love.

And of course, despite Orfeo’s talents, and the magic, that his music continuously, conjures up; there will be major mishaps, because Orfeo is only “human”, and imperfect.

And in order to be reunited with his Euridice, Orpheus will have to obey a Greek God’s horrible “condition”, for a man in love. More on that, in a minute.

But rest assured though, that love does indeed triumph, in the end!

Phew!

Love, in the “form” of Cupid, impressed by Orfeo’s devotion to love, comes to Orfeo’s rescue, and in the end when all seems lost, reunites Orfeo to his Euridice!

Yay!

Love proves to be even stronger than the Underworld’s iron will!

Phew!

Love triumphs, as it always does, in all the forms it takes, including as in this instance, the romantic one, and shows all, the importance of always, always, always, disregarding darkness, even in the saddest of times; and instead, always, always always, choose to eternally serve beauty and light!

Yay!!!!

But before getting into the opera’s plot, let me still, give you a bit more context, about the myth it is based on:

Orfeo is based on the Orpheus ancient greek myth, which is much darker than the Gluck adaptation, about the importance of loving, trust, and obedience, to “society’s/gods” rules.

What is Orpheus’ myth about?

Plethora of versions abound of course, but in a nutshell, these are the main elements, to keep in mind, concerning this legendary greek hero. Orpheus was the son of famous Calliope, the Muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; and either Apollo (god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing, the Sun and light, poetry), or a Thracian prince. This glorious ancestry, turned Orpheus into an incredibly talented musician, depicted often with a greek lyra; Orpheus was also considered, to be an amazingly inspired singer, poet, and prophet, endowed as well, with an ability to charm all living things, and even stones with his music.

How about that!

He was also happily married to beautiful Euridice; who died, soon after their wedding, from a snake bite; and was thus, sent to the Underworld. Overcome with desperate grief, over his wife’s “passing”, Orpheus, pleads with Zeus, to allow him to be reunited with his wife.

Zeus tells Orpheus, to negotiate Euridice’s “rescue”, with his brother Hades, the “master”/King of the Underworld.

As he travels to the Underworld, at its entrance, Orpheus meets there, the three headed hell hound, Cerberus; and Orpheus’ beautiful singing, enchants the stern hound’s heart.

Yay!

And later still, Orpheus is also finally able, to soften the heart of Persephone (majestic Queen of the Underworld), who convinces Hades (Master/King of the Underworld), to let Orpheus and his wife, return onto Earth, to the Upper world.

Hades accepts this request, but includes a devastatingly cruel “condition” for Orpheus.

Orpheus is to walk back to Earth, followed by his wife Euridice, without being able, as they walk back up the trail to Earth, to exchange a glance with her, or allowed to check, that she is indeed, following him; or even explain to her why, he has to behave that way, or else, he is condemned to lose her again, to the Underworld; and this time, indefinitely.

And as they progress back up, Orpheus is not sure, if Euridice, is indeed following him, as he can’t hear her foot steps.

Filled with an insurmountable anguish, as he is nearing the exit, he finally cannot bear that “uncertainty”; and turns his head, back to Euridice, to check on his sweetheart. And as he does so, he sees, that she is indeed, right on his heels, but suddenly, Euridice is whisked away, back to the Underworld. He loses her; for a second time; and of course, Orpheus is then, inconsolable; as he returns to earth; and later still, when he turns down Bacchanal priestesses, for a bit of fun, he is then, beaten to death by them; yet, his spirit rejoices at the idea of finally being reunited with his wife, in the Underworld.

Oh boy!

Of course, that is better than nothing, but still, this story, is heart breaking to anyone who is in love, that the heroes get to be so close to living their eternal love in the Upper world, but never seem to be able, to get passed their trials and tribulations.

This myth of course, has captured generations of artists’ imagination throughout the ages including in poetry, film, opera, music, and painting.

Here are just a few examples:

Let’s start with classical music, and listen to Lizst:

How incredibly soothing to the soul, and doesn’t it tell also, the story of Orpheus, so incredibly well…

What an amazing piece!

So beautiful…

And let’s continue now with poetry:

Here is a short translated excerpt, from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Sonnet to Orpheus”:

Oh you tender ones, there are times when you should
Enter into that breath which was not intended for you,
Let Him part Himself on your cheeks, –
How he trembles behind you, comes together again. 

Oh you blessed ones, oh you redeemed, you
Who are the wellspring of the heart.
Bows for arrows, and hitters of the mark,
Your smiles shine forth forever, eased by tears.

Do not fear to suffer; – cares sink back
Into the earth again from their heaviness;
Heavy are the mountains, heavy are the seas.

Isn’t it just sublime?

Sigh…

Of course there is also Dante and Beatrice:

Dante recounts a meeting with Love, who asks the poet to do his best to honour her.

Enjoy!

Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
Un spirito amoroso che dormia:
E poi vidi venir da lungi Amore
Allegro sì, che appena il conoscia,

Dicendo: “Or pensa pur di farmi onore”;
E ‘n ciascuna parola sua ridia.
E poco stando meco il mio segnore,
Guardando in quella parte onde venia,

Io vidi monna Vanna e monna Bice
Venire inver lo loco là ‘v’io era,
L’una appresso de l’altra miriviglia;

E sì come la mente mi ridice,
Amor mi disse: “Quell’è Primavera,
E quell’ha nome Amor, sì mi somiglia.”
I felt awoken in my heart
a loving spirit that was sleeping;
and then I saw Love coming from far away
so glad, I could just recognize.

saying “you think you can honor me”,
and with each word laughing.
And little being with me my lord,
watching the way it came from,

I saw lady Joan and lady Bice
coming towards the spot I was at,
one wonder past another wonder.

And as my mind keeps telling me,
Love said to me “She is Spring who springs first,
and that bears the name Love, who resembles me.”

Isn’t it just awesome?

So gorgeous!

And, of course, I also love this quote from the great William of course:

Let’s now admire a beautiful painting depicting Orpheus “transgressing” Hades’ “condition”, out of love:

So unbearable for both these heroes…

Sigh…

And of course, one can’t think of Orpheus without mentioning film, and the amazing portrait of Orpheus by Cocteau, a spellbinding, magical, surrealistic masterpiece; his “Orphée” (1950):

Let’s watch the trailer:

And to me, actually Orpheus is synonym with Cocteau: watch this incredible portrait of this genius artist, which to me, embodies the spirit of Orpheus, except that Orpheus, is also trying, in my mind, to constantly better himself, as he is a hero, descending from mythological ancestry; and as so, he needs to respect, and be worthy of his beautiful ancestry…

So much more appealing that way!

Celebrating beauty always, yet in responsible ways also!

Yay!

Ok, as always I got carried away…

Yay!

Let’s get back to our opera:

And I love, that Gluck decides for his Orfeo opera, on a much more hopeful and heartwarming ending.

Phew!

Yippee!

Gluck, with the help of his librettist Calzabigi, decides that Orfeo’s devotion to his Euridice, and his unwavering love for her, will enable him, despite having lost his wife twice, because of fate or imperfections, will enable his steady heart, to be rewarded, and allow him, to be reunited to her, because of his numerous offerings, to the glory of love.

Yay!

Isn’t that really wonderful?

Yay!

And in Gluck’s version, a short 3 act opera, there are still a few other changes:

Our Orfeo ed Euridice opera starts off, with us discovering that Euridice has been whisked away, to the Underworld, and we witness the sadness, that has taken hold of all.

Let’s now listen, to the chorus lamenting Euridice’s disappearance:

Let’s first read the text:

Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! If around this funeral urn,
Eurydice, sweet spirit, you hover,

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
Hear the plaints, the laments, the sighs
which we mourners utter for you.

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
And hearken to your unhappy husband,
who, weeping,
calls you and makes moan.

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
As when
the amorous dove
loses her dear companion.

Recitative

ORPHEUS
Enough, enough, my friends!
Your grief increases my own!
Scatter purple flowers,
place garlands on her tomb,
and leave me!
I would remain alone
among these dark and mournful shades
with the pitiless company of my misfortunes!

Ballet
Larghetto

Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! If around this funeral urn,
Eurydice, sweet spirit, you hover,
hear the plaints, the laments, the sighs
which we mourners utter for you.

At the end of the dance which follows, the Chorus leaves.

Aria

ORPHEUS
Thus do I call my love
when day shows itself
and when it disappears.
But ah! vain is my grief!
The idol of my heart
does not reply.

Let’s now listen to the devastatingly beautiful chorus, lamenting Euridice’s disappearance:

Isn’t it just extraordinary?

And an incredibly poetic ballet follows, choreographed beautifully, by Morris, with amazingly poetic dancers, and I’ll tell you in a minute, what these dances evoke for me.

But first, to be able to reconquer the right to see his wife, Orfeo needs to brave, and tame, in the Underworld, the anger of the “Furies”.

Let’s watch, a short excerpt of these “Furies”, from the Royal ballet:

As Orfeo is able to get passed these “Furies”, Orfeo gets then, to the land of the “Blessed spirits”, where he is then, reunited with his wife, Euridice.

Let’s watch an excerpt of the land of the “Blessed spirits”, by another great choreographer, as well:

Enjoy!

Isn’t is so delicately poetic?

So, as Orfeo and Euridice are reunited, they start their trek, back to the light, under the dire conditions, imposed by Hades; and of course, because of Euridice’s sweetness and need for comfort from her husband; to Orfeo, it is unbearable, to have to stay cold and distant from his wife; so eventually, he does indeed, turn to his sweetheart, to comfort her, and of course, has then, to lose her again, to the Underworld; but Amore, the bountiful and benevolent god, is truly moved, and, in the end, reunites them again, so moved is Cupid, by such devotion, from the sweet and loving Orfeo.

Yay!

Hooray to Orfeo and his Euridice!

And hooray to Gluck, for delivering a happy ending to all!

And before ending this post, I would like to pay hommage to Orfeo’s incredible passion for his Euridice, and vice versa, and share short dance excerpts, from the most graceful Hollywood dancer of all times: the iconic Cyd Charisse, and also, share a few movie excerpts, and songs (sad ones and also really beautiful and uplifting ones)!

Yay!

Let’s start with dancing:

Yay!

Let’s admire the beautiful Cyd, which I immediately thought of, when watching last Tuesday, Mark Morris’s amazing dancers:

Here she dances beautifully, with the wonderful, the one and only, Fred in an excerpt of “The Band Wagon” (1953) by Minelli:

Enjoy!

How charming and poetic is it not?

But how about this one as well, in “Silk Stockings” (1957), by Mamoulian.

So fun, and everyday-like, just as one would do with their spouse, to welcome a new day!

Yay!

So joyful and great!

Of course, my very favorite one, is another imaginative and dreamy scene, in this terrific movie:

Enjoy!

Told you so!

Now let’s move to a few movie excerpts:

First let’s mention the recent Tolkien movie (2019) by Karukoski, incredibly beautiful about Tolkien’s passion for language, storytelling, for his wife, he meets early on, their tumultuous, very long, and so very beautiful courtship, as well as his strong ties to his best friends/mates; I am sure Orfeo and Euridice, would have loved this incredibly beautiful life long romance:

Now brace yourselves, this one is about the absolute necessity of trust between spouses, who know that, only eternal love, can defy death, in only certain extreme conditions of course, but still brace yourselves, this is one of the most haunting, and courageous, and stupid ideas ever, and they are lucky to get out of it, alive; but this is for Orfeo and Euridice, because that is one of the most powerful scenes ever, about the power of love and trust:

I hope you have a box of tissues with you…

This one, is to pay homage to Doris Day, the incredible singer, which Orfeo would have loved, and Rock Hudson’s imaginative poetic mind, who fall for each other, and end up marrying each other, in Reed’s 2003 film “Down with love”:

Yay!

And this one, is because, their courtship was so long, they thought they would never make it, from Cassavetes his 2004 “The Notebook”, this should move Orfeo and his Euridice:

Let’s watch:

As this one from Luhrmann 2001 “Moulin Rouge”, is another take on Orpheus and Euridice; in which Euridice, is a courtisane, trapped in the “Underworld”, who tries to be rescued by her sweetheart, an Orpheus-like writer, as much in love with her, as she is with him:

Enjoy!

And here, is one entitled “Gods of Egypt” (2016) by Proyas, who also has, a strong connection to the Underworld, and whose imperfect heroes, grow in strength, ability to trust, and in love, which would amuse Orfeo and Euridice:

Enjoy!

And on to songs: here are a few from a great TV series (Glee), about love and life, which are sure to entertain Orpheus/Orfeo and his Euridice:

Enjoy!

You get the picture!

And before finally, ending this post, let me just tell you, my take, on the teachings behind this Orfeo ed Euridice opera: to me, this story is about believing in ourselves, to accomplish all of our dreams, working hard at being independent, yet altruistic, successful yet modest, whatever that means to each one of us, so that we can all, also, offer “just because”, our love freely, to all our loved ones, family and friends included; and of course, especially to the one that makes your heart beat a little faster.

Because I believe, all of our “dreams” are only granted by fate, to those who work hard, and fight continuously to try to better themselves, who trust, who do the right thing, and don’t shy away from their responsibilities towards the world, and also, fortunately listen also always, to their heart, whatever right form for each one, it ends up taking.

Yay!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Joyful…

Peaceful…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊