Period.Pieces

The Use Of The Cornet in “Orpheus and Eurydice”

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by Norman Engel, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

In this presentation of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, Opera Atelier is using the 1859 orchestration by Hector Berlioz. In Gluck’s original version, the trumpet parts call for instruments in the keys of C, D and Eb and two parts for the ancient cornetto.

When Berlioz revised Orpheus and Eurydice in 1859, he decided to keep the original natural trumpet parts, but orchestrated the original cornetto part for the more modern cornet à piston in Bb. These instruments were by then very common in orchestras throughout Europe and America.

In this production you will … Read more

“Orpheus & Eurydice” Conductor’s Notes

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Gluck’s setting of the classical tale of Orpheus has arguably been the most frequently revised and reworked opera in musical history. First performed in Italian in 1762 for the imperial court in Vienna, it featured the alto castrato Gaetano Guadagni in the title role, and immediately became famous for its new reformist ethos and dramatic thrust. Dispensing with elaborate da capo arias and lengthy orchestral ritornellos typical of opera seria, it distilled the story to its essential psychological truths, set to music of deliberate simplicity and directness. It was very much a product of its time: everywhere in theatre, … Read more

“Orpheus & Eurydice” Choreographer’s Notes

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The original French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice was choreographed by two luminaries of the Paris Opera: Gardel and Vestris. Gardel was responsible for the mourning scene in Act I and the scene of the Furies in Act II. Vestris choreographed the lyrical dances in the Elysian Fields and the triumphal ballet which concludes the opera.

Both choreographers worked closely with Gluck, creating dances which existed to further and enhance the drama rather than emphasizing virtuosity for its own sake. I have tried to stay true to Gluck’s ideals in the choreography for the Berlioz version – and … Read more

“Orpheus & Eurydice” Director’s Notes

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This is the third time I have directed a production of Gluck’s glorious reform opera Orpheus and Eurydice and each time, the experience has been more gratifying than the last.

Gluck prided himself on his telling of the story clearly, succinctly and precisely with no gratuitous fireworks to amuse the audience. The brevity of his storytelling does not however mean that his characters lack depth. The nuances of Orpheus’ grief and anguish are so finely delineated and his recitative so free of pretense that at times it has felt as though we were rehearsing a play rather than an … Read more

Synopsis of “Orpheus & Eurydice”

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ACT I

Eurydice’s tomb

The opera opens during the funeral for Eurydice (the wife of the Thracian singer Orpheus), who has died on their wedding day. Together with his friends, Orpheus laments his loss, challenges the cruel gods and, in his despair, declares his intention to bring Eurydice back from the realm of the dead. Amour, the god of love, appears and announces the will of the gods: “if Orpheus succeeds in placating the frenzied Furies of the netherworld with the power of his singing, Eurydice will be given back to him” — but only on the condition that Orpheus … Read more