Orfeo ED Euridice COC banner

Orfeo ed Euridice

Christoph Willibald Gluck
To

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Performance Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission


#OrfeoCOC


What makes Orfeo ed Euridice so special?

Orfeo’s beloved Euridice has died, but he’s willing to go to hell and back to find her. The gods impose one catch: Orfeo must lead Euridice out of the underworld without ever turning back to look at her, or else she will be lost forever.

Composer C. W. Gluck “changed the course of opera history” (Toronto Star) with Orfeo, stripping away the 18th century’s ostentatious style to create a bold, emotionally direct piece of theatre.

Critically acclaimed when it was last seen at the COC, this spellbinding production by director Robert Carsen is notable for its elegant simplicity and striking design.


“This Orfeo could move heaven and hell.”

– NOW Magazine


Credits
Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM



CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM

Conductor: Bernard Labadie
Director: Robert Carsen
Set & Costume Designer: Tobias Hoheisel
Lighting Designers: Robert Carsen & Peter Van Praet
Price Family Chorus Master: Sandra Horst

Orfeo: Iestyn Davies
Euridice: Anna-Sophie Neher
Amore: Mireille Asselin

With the COC Orchestra and Chorus

Co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées; Fondazione Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Opera Royal, Château de Versailles Spectacles; and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Created May 22, 2018 at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées




The Story

Plot in a Minute

Orfeo’s wife, Euridice, has died. The god, Amore,  permits the grief-stricken Orfeo to follow his wife to the Underworld to bring her back, on the condition that he not look at her until they are safely back on Earth.


Synopsis

ACT I

By Euridice’s grave

Orfeo and his friends are grieving for Euridice. Left alone, Orfeo begs for to his beloved to return, and for the Gods to grant mercy for his overwhelming grief, but his prayers go unanswered. Finally grief turns to resolve and Orfeo curses the fates. He is determined to find Euridice, even if it means facing death himself to reach her.

The god Amore appears to help Orfeo, telling him that Jupiter feels pity for his grief. If Orfeo can cross through the Underworld alive and calm the Furies with his singing, he will be able to find Euridice and return to Earth with her.  But there’s a catch: he cannot look at his wife until they have returned to the world of the living, nor can he tell her of this condition. If he breaks it, he will lose her forever. Orfeo is unnerved and apprehensive about how the unsuspecting Euridice will react when they are reunited. But he accepts the gods’ challenge and asks for their help as he descends into the Underworld.

ACT II

The Underworld

When Orfeo appears, the Furies angrily wonder how a mortal could dare to attempt to pass through the Underworld. Orfeo begs them to feel pity for him, explaining that had they suffered for love as he has suffered, they would not be so indifferent. The Furies are calmed by Orfeo, and allow him to pass from Hades to Elysium.

The Elysian Fields

Orfeo is moved by the serenity and beauty of Elysium. However he feels that he will only share in its joys when he is reunited with Euridice. Eventually she is brought to him. Orfeo is impatient to leave; without looking at her, he takes her hand and starts to lead her back to Earth.

ACT III

The Return to Earth

Orfeo urges Euridice to follow him. She wonders how she can be alive. Orpheus replies that she will soon know more, but begs her to ask no more questions. Surprised that he refuses to embrace her, Euridice wonders if she is no longer beautiful. She implores Orfeo to turn around and look at her but he refuses. Plagued by doubts, Euridice confesses that she would rather die than live with an Orfeo who no longer loves her.  Feeling faint, she collapses. Orfeo can no longer bear it: he turns around to help his wife, and she dies instantly.

Overwhelmed with grief, Orfeo is about to kill himself again, when Amore once more prevents him. Declaring that he has suffered enough, Amore brings Euridice back to life. Orfeo embraces her ecstatically.

Orfeo, Euridice and their friends celebrate Love, which they declare is able to conquer all cruelty and doubt.

PHOTOS



(top to bottom):

Lawrence Zazzo (back to camera) as Orfeo with the COC Chorus in Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper

Lawrence Zazzo as Orfeo and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Eurydice in Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper

A scene from Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper

Listen



Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. John Eliot Gardiner, conductor, with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, 1993. Decca

The Creators

CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK (1714 – 1787)

Composer

Christoph Willibald Gluck was born in Erasbach, Upper Palatinate, Germany. His father didn’t approve of Gluck’s musical leanings and so Gluck ran away from home at age 13 to Prague where he earned his living singing and playing various instruments in orchestras and churches. Gluck had little formal musical training and was almost completely self-taught. His early career as a musician and composer took him all over Europe, where he played in orchestras and accepted composing commissions. In 1752, at the age of 38, he settled in Vienna, which was to be his home for most of the rest of his life. He married Maria Anna Bergin, which was advantageous on at least two levels: she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and she had connections to the imperial court, which helped Gluck’s career. Another advantageous connection was his friendship with Count Durazzo, an important Viennese theatrical figure who brought French opéra-comique to the city and to Gluck, who had a successful run at composing in that particular style. Durazzo also introduced Gluck to the choreographer Gasparo Angiolini and Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, a multi-talented man of theatre and a follower of the French Enlightenment. The three artists collaborated on a rebellious new ballet of Don Juan (1761), which incorporated more of the French influences they admired. With de’ Calzabigi, Gluck would create his three “reform” operas: Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770).

With the premiere of Orfeo ed Euridice Gluck provided a turning point in the history of opera. This reform aimed to move away from opera seria, doing away with complex plots and overly ornate music that he and his collaborators perceived to be a hindrance to real expression. Instead they sought a noble simplicity in both music and drama. The continued French influence on his work led Gluck to compose his first serious French opera, Iphigénie en Aulide. This was a triumph when it premiered in Paris, at the Académie Royale, where Gluck was also enjoying the support of a former Vienna pupil of his, Marie-Antoinette, the French dauphine. The rest of Gluck’s career was spent living in Vienna, visiting Paris and composing operas for the French theatre. Highlights of that period include the expanded, French-language version of Orfeo ed Euridice, titled Orphée et Eurydice, a reworking of Alceste and his final masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). A series of strokes left Gluck too weak to travel, and he spent his last days in Vienna, living in high style right up to his death on Nov. 15, 1787.


RANIERI DE’ CALZABIGI (1714 – 1795)

Librettist

Writer and librettist Ranieri de’Calzabigi came from a respectable family. After his university studies, Calzabigi moved to Naples in 1741 to pursue his literary ambitions, however his early attempts to establish himself as a librettist were unsuccessful. In 1745, he was commissioned by the French ambassador to Naples, the Marquis d’Hospital, to write a piece for the marriage of the daulphin and the daughter of the King of Spain (L’impero dell’universo diviso con Giove, composed by Gennaro Manna). In 1747, he wrote Il sogno d’Olimpia to mark the birth of an heir to the Neapolitan throne. His early work was heavily influenced by the opera seria librettist Metastasio, who praised the work, but was critical of the simple diction.

Around 1750, a scandal forced Calzabigi to leave Naples for Paris where he worked as a secretary to the Marquis d’Hospital.  Here he began to establish himself and meet influential people, including Casanova. In 1752 he began a project with Metastasio, producing a critical edition of the latter’s works. However, when the first volume was published, Calzabigi’s views on reforming opera (moving from the aria focused approach towards the drama of natural expression) became apparent, along with the beginnings of a critical attitude towards Metastasio.

By 1761 Calzabigi was in Vienna, where he was introduced to likeminded reformers Christoph Willibald Gluck and the choreographer Gasparo Angiolini. Their first collaboration was the ballet Done Juan (1761). Gluck and Calzabigi continued to work together on Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770). He also wrote for Gassman and collaborated with Giovanni Gastone Boccherini on comic operas for Salieri (Le donne letterate and L’amour innocente, both set in 1770).

Calzabigi left Vienna in 1772, living in various locations before returning to Naples in 1780, where he died in July 1795.  

PERFORMANCE DATES

Orfeo ed Euridice (May 1 – 15, 2021)

Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 7, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 2 p.m.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 4:30 p.m.

  • Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM



    CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM

    Conductor: Bernard Labadie
    Director: Robert Carsen
    Set & Costume Designer: Tobias Hoheisel
    Lighting Designers: Robert Carsen & Peter Van Praet
    Price Family Chorus Master: Sandra Horst

    Orfeo: Iestyn Davies
    Euridice: Anna-Sophie Neher
    Amore: Mireille Asselin

    With the COC Orchestra and Chorus

    Co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées; Fondazione Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Opera Royal, Château de Versailles Spectacles; and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Created May 22, 2018 at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées



  • Plot in a Minute

    Orfeo’s wife, Euridice, has died. The god, Amore,  permits the grief-stricken Orfeo to follow his wife to the Underworld to bring her back, on the condition that he not look at her until they are safely back on Earth.


    Synopsis

    ACT I

    By Euridice’s grave

    Orfeo and his friends are grieving for Euridice. Left alone, Orfeo begs for to his beloved to return, and for the Gods to grant mercy for his overwhelming grief, but his prayers go unanswered. Finally grief turns to resolve and Orfeo curses the fates. He is determined to find Euridice, even if it means facing death himself to reach her.

    The god Amore appears to help Orfeo, telling him that Jupiter feels pity for his grief. If Orfeo can cross through the Underworld alive and calm the Furies with his singing, he will be able to find Euridice and return to Earth with her.  But there’s a catch: he cannot look at his wife until they have returned to the world of the living, nor can he tell her of this condition. If he breaks it, he will lose her forever. Orfeo is unnerved and apprehensive about how the unsuspecting Euridice will react when they are reunited. But he accepts the gods’ challenge and asks for their help as he descends into the Underworld.

    ACT II

    The Underworld

    When Orfeo appears, the Furies angrily wonder how a mortal could dare to attempt to pass through the Underworld. Orfeo begs them to feel pity for him, explaining that had they suffered for love as he has suffered, they would not be so indifferent. The Furies are calmed by Orfeo, and allow him to pass from Hades to Elysium.

    The Elysian Fields

    Orfeo is moved by the serenity and beauty of Elysium. However he feels that he will only share in its joys when he is reunited with Euridice. Eventually she is brought to him. Orfeo is impatient to leave; without looking at her, he takes her hand and starts to lead her back to Earth.

    ACT III

    The Return to Earth

    Orfeo urges Euridice to follow him. She wonders how she can be alive. Orpheus replies that she will soon know more, but begs her to ask no more questions. Surprised that he refuses to embrace her, Euridice wonders if she is no longer beautiful. She implores Orfeo to turn around and look at her but he refuses. Plagued by doubts, Euridice confesses that she would rather die than live with an Orfeo who no longer loves her.  Feeling faint, she collapses. Orfeo can no longer bear it: he turns around to help his wife, and she dies instantly.

    Overwhelmed with grief, Orfeo is about to kill himself again, when Amore once more prevents him. Declaring that he has suffered enough, Amore brings Euridice back to life. Orfeo embraces her ecstatically.

    Orfeo, Euridice and their friends celebrate Love, which they declare is able to conquer all cruelty and doubt.




  • (top to bottom):

    Lawrence Zazzo (back to camera) as Orfeo with the COC Chorus in Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper

    Lawrence Zazzo as Orfeo and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Eurydice in Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper

    A scene from Orfeo (COC, 2011), photo: Michael Cooper




  • Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. John Eliot Gardiner, conductor, with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, 1993. Decca

  • CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK (1714 – 1787)

    Composer

    Christoph Willibald Gluck was born in Erasbach, Upper Palatinate, Germany. His father didn’t approve of Gluck’s musical leanings and so Gluck ran away from home at age 13 to Prague where he earned his living singing and playing various instruments in orchestras and churches. Gluck had little formal musical training and was almost completely self-taught. His early career as a musician and composer took him all over Europe, where he played in orchestras and accepted composing commissions. In 1752, at the age of 38, he settled in Vienna, which was to be his home for most of the rest of his life. He married Maria Anna Bergin, which was advantageous on at least two levels: she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and she had connections to the imperial court, which helped Gluck’s career. Another advantageous connection was his friendship with Count Durazzo, an important Viennese theatrical figure who brought French opéra-comique to the city and to Gluck, who had a successful run at composing in that particular style. Durazzo also introduced Gluck to the choreographer Gasparo Angiolini and Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, a multi-talented man of theatre and a follower of the French Enlightenment. The three artists collaborated on a rebellious new ballet of Don Juan (1761), which incorporated more of the French influences they admired. With de’ Calzabigi, Gluck would create his three “reform” operas: Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770).

    With the premiere of Orfeo ed Euridice Gluck provided a turning point in the history of opera. This reform aimed to move away from opera seria, doing away with complex plots and overly ornate music that he and his collaborators perceived to be a hindrance to real expression. Instead they sought a noble simplicity in both music and drama. The continued French influence on his work led Gluck to compose his first serious French opera, Iphigénie en Aulide. This was a triumph when it premiered in Paris, at the Académie Royale, where Gluck was also enjoying the support of a former Vienna pupil of his, Marie-Antoinette, the French dauphine. The rest of Gluck’s career was spent living in Vienna, visiting Paris and composing operas for the French theatre. Highlights of that period include the expanded, French-language version of Orfeo ed Euridice, titled Orphée et Eurydice, a reworking of Alceste and his final masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). A series of strokes left Gluck too weak to travel, and he spent his last days in Vienna, living in high style right up to his death on Nov. 15, 1787.


    RANIERI DE’ CALZABIGI (1714 – 1795)

    Librettist

    Writer and librettist Ranieri de’Calzabigi came from a respectable family. After his university studies, Calzabigi moved to Naples in 1741 to pursue his literary ambitions, however his early attempts to establish himself as a librettist were unsuccessful. In 1745, he was commissioned by the French ambassador to Naples, the Marquis d’Hospital, to write a piece for the marriage of the daulphin and the daughter of the King of Spain (L’impero dell’universo diviso con Giove, composed by Gennaro Manna). In 1747, he wrote Il sogno d’Olimpia to mark the birth of an heir to the Neapolitan throne. His early work was heavily influenced by the opera seria librettist Metastasio, who praised the work, but was critical of the simple diction.

    Around 1750, a scandal forced Calzabigi to leave Naples for Paris where he worked as a secretary to the Marquis d’Hospital.  Here he began to establish himself and meet influential people, including Casanova. In 1752 he began a project with Metastasio, producing a critical edition of the latter’s works. However, when the first volume was published, Calzabigi’s views on reforming opera (moving from the aria focused approach towards the drama of natural expression) became apparent, along with the beginnings of a critical attitude towards Metastasio.

    By 1761 Calzabigi was in Vienna, where he was introduced to likeminded reformers Christoph Willibald Gluck and the choreographer Gasparo Angiolini. Their first collaboration was the ballet Done Juan (1761). Gluck and Calzabigi continued to work together on Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770). He also wrote for Gassman and collaborated with Giovanni Gastone Boccherini on comic operas for Salieri (Le donne letterate and L’amour innocente, both set in 1770).

    Calzabigi left Vienna in 1772, living in various locations before returning to Naples in 1780, where he died in July 1795.  

  • Orfeo ed Euridice (May 1 – 15, 2021)

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
    Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
    Friday, May 7, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
    Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 2 p.m.
    Tuesday, May 11, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
    Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
    Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 4:30 p.m.


2020/2021 season creative: BT/A

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts capacity: 2,070
Ticket prices do not include service fees, $9 CAD.

Orfeo ed Euridice

Christoph Willibald Gluck
To

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Performance Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission


#OrfeoCOC


What makes Orfeo ed Euridice so special?

Orfeo’s beloved Euridice has died, but he’s willing to go to hell and back to find her. The gods impose one catch: Orfeo must lead Euridice out of the underworld without ever turning back to look at her, or else she will be lost forever.

Composer C. W. Gluck “changed the course of opera history” (Toronto Star) with Orfeo, stripping away the 18th century’s ostentatious style to create a bold, emotionally direct piece of theatre.

Critically acclaimed when it was last seen at the COC, this spellbinding production by director Robert Carsen is notable for its elegant simplicity and striking design.


“This Orfeo could move heaven and hell.”

– NOW Magazine

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