Christoph Willibald Gluck

Orfeo ed Euridice (Italian version), opera in 3 acts, Wq. 30

    Description by Rita Laurance

    Orfeo ed Euridice was one of three operas composed by Gluck in an attempt to reform the Italian opera seria. The opera seria had many dramatic drawbacks, among them a stiff libretto full of contrivances and formal musical patterns that were given precedence over dramatic flow.

    Gluck had an admirable dramatic imagination that balked at all this regimentation. After he had come into contact with the librettist and poet Ranieri de' Calzabigi, he began to imagine a new form of dramatic opera. Calzabigi wanted to bring French influences to the Italian opera, and his libretti are monumental poetic works in an Italian rhetorical style. The libretto for Orfeo ed Euridice is noble and grand, and the ending employs a typical deus ex machina to bring about a happy ending for the lovers.

    The grandeur of the libretto must have inspired Gluck, for his approach to the score is also monumental, as well as essentially orchestral in nature. The opera opens after the death of Euridice to a funereal choral tableau which is pierced by the cries of the anguished Orfeo. Huge dramatic choruses of shades and furies contrast starkly with the solo recitatives and arias of Orfeo as he searches for Euridice. Music of the Elysian Fields offers another contrast. Orfeo's aria here features a myriad of solo instruments. The entire scene is radiant and heavenly. The third act is particularly beautiful, as Gluck and Calzabigi turn the shade of Euridice into a complex lover and wife, unwilling to follow her husband blindly out of Hades, even though she has been called back to life. Her arguments and pleadings, her passion and confusion, create the torment in Orfeo that results in her being sent back to hell.

    The premiere of 1762 was a great success, and when Gluck later decided to try to reform the French tragedies lyriques, he rewrote Orfeo and took it to the Parisian stage. The original Orfeo had been an alto castrato. In Paris the role had to be rewritten for a countertenor voice, as the French never used castrati, finding them ridiculous. The French version was also grander and more elaborate to suit the taste of the Parisians. The final happy ending was turned into a huge divertissement with ballet.

    Orfeo ed Euridice achieved international renown and is still widely performed. In 1859 Berlioz made a third version of Orfeo which combined the French and Italian scores. He rewrote the part of Orfeo for Pauline Viardot, a female interpreter. In the nineteenth century the part was sung by a contralto as often as by a tenor, and in the twentieth century Orfeo was even been sung by a baritone. The most celebrated excerpt from it is not an aria, but the orchestral Dance of the Blessed Spirits.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sinfonia
    2. Ah se intorno a questa urna funesta
    3. Basta, basta, o compagni
    4. Ballo
    5. Ah se intorno a quest'urna funesta
    6. Chiamo il mio ben così (Strofe I)
    7. Cerco il mio ben così (Strofe II)
    8. Piango il mio ben così (Strofe III)
    9. Gli sguardi trattieni
    10. Ballo
    11. Chi mai dell'Erebo (Prelude & Chorus)
    12. Ballo
    13. Chi mai dell'Erebo
    14. Ballo
    15. Deh! placatevi con me
    16. Misero giovane!
    17. Mille pene, ombre moleste (Arioso)
    18. Ah quale uncognito affetto
    19. Ballo
    20. Anime avventurose
    21. Torna, o bella, al tuo consorte
    22. Vieni: appaga il tuo consorte
    23. Che fiero momento!
    24. Che farò senza Euridice!
    25. Ma finisca; e per sempre Colla vita il dolor
    26. Ballo
    27. Trionfi Amore

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Erato
    2018 Erato 570910
    2016 Accent ACC 24321
    2015 Archiv Produktion 4795315
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94703
    2012 Decca 4783425
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995628424
    2011 Urania / Urania Records 106
    2011 Warner Classics
    2010 ARTS / Arts Music 477538
    2010 Decca
    2009 Danacord 667/68
    2008 Golden Melodram 50073
    2008 VAI Audio 4394
    2007 BRV 9807
    2006 Urania 290
    2006 Capriccio Records 51192
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 86194
    2004 Arts Music 47700
    2004 Night & Day Records 615534
    2003 Preiser Records 90523
    2002 Urania 196
    2002 Dutton Laboratories 9730
    2002 Naxos 8 660064
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1312
    2000 RCA 63534
    2000 Opera D'Oro 1241
    2000 Gala Records 100533
    1999 Arts Music 47536
    1999 Accent 48223/24
    1998 Dutton Laboratories 5015
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 453145
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66507
    1996 RCA Classics 74321322382
    1996 Orfeo 391952
    1995 Berlin Classics 0090332
    1995 Erato 98512
    1994 Forlane 16720/21
    1994 Capriccio Records 60008
    1993 Vanguard 4039
    1993 Philips 434093
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48040
    1992 Erato 45864
    1990 RCA 7896
    1989 Decca / London 417410
    Deutsche Grammophon 02894775270
    Musique d'Or 1078
    Harmonia Mundi 901742/43
    Document 933
    Decca 470 424-2DOC2
    Enterprise 933
    Memories 4382
    Le Monde de l'Opera 09
    Eklipse 28