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Orfeo ed Euridice 1990

July 14 - August 23, 1990

Gluck’s score brings the classic tale of Orfeo’s epic journey to life…

…as his quest for Euridice takes him to the underworld and back.

Music By
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Libretto By
Raniero da Calzabigi


Act I

The scene opens on a cypress grove, where Orpheus mourns the death of his wife Euridice with a crowd of shepherds and nymphs who adorn her tomb with garlands of flowers. Soon Orpheus asks the chorus to withdraw and, once alone, he sings a plaintive song regretting the premature loss of his wife, cursing the cruel gods of Hades. Finally he resolves to go as far as the Underworld to try and claim back his beloved wife.

At this point Amor appears and announces that Jupiter himself has been moved to pity for Orpheus and has decided to allow him to descend to Hades to reclaim his wife if he can appease the gods of the Underworld with the sweet sound of his lyre. But he can have her back on one condition: that he does not cast a glance on her until they are safely returned to earth. Orpheus realizes that this is going to be a test of his determination and a cause of distress to his wife, but when Amor reminds him that the test will not last long, he accepts the condition and prepares to face the horrors of Hades.

Act II

The second act takes place in the Underworld.

At first we are in a gloomy cavern beyond the river Styx. As Orpheus, a mortal, appears, the Furies are thrown into a frenzy: his pleading is answered by a frightening “No!” which interrupts him again and again and appears to be final. However, even the Furies are eventually placated by the power of music and song.

Orpheus is thus allowed to enter the Elysian Fields, where Euridice is singing and dancing happily among other blessed spirits. The disconsolate husband is quite won over by the beauty of the place, but declares that even there he could not experience perfect happiness without his beloved. The blessed spirits encourage Euridice to return to Orpheus, who can make her happier than Elysium itself. Without looking at her, Orpheus leads her quickly away.


As the action begins we are in a mountainous gorge, still within the Underworld. Orpheus is leading Euridice by the hand, but she is reluctant to follow him. He tells her that she is alive again and encourages her to make haste, but she is bewildered and annoyed by his refusal to explain how it all happened, and especially by the fact that instead of hugging and kissing her, as he might reasonably be expected to do, he keeps his gaze averted from her. She hesitates to leave a happy place like Elysium to return to earthly cares with an unloving husband.

As to Orpheus, his plight is unbearable: he longs to hold her in his arms and comfort her, and yet he cannot explain to her his apparently cold behavior. Finally the inevitable happens: he cannot bear to hear her reproaches and turns to look at her. She feels faint and falls lifeless to the ground.

Orpheus’ grief is now expressed in the most celebrated aria of the whole opera “Che faro senza Euridice?“. He is about to commit suicide but his desperation provokes the sudden appearance of Amor, who announces that Orpheus has suffered enough in the cause of love and finally restores Euridice to her devoted husband. They sing a triumphant trio.

The scene changes to the temple of the god of love, back on Earth, and the opera ends in general jubilation in honor of the happy pair.


Santa Fe Opera

Marilyn Horne



Benita Valente headshot

Benita Valente



Tracy Dahl, C.M. headshot

Tracy Dahl, C.M.



Santa Fe Opera

Lawrence Foster


Santa Fe Opera

Lamont Johnson


Santa Fe Opera

Kimi Okada


Santa Fe Opera

Steven Rubin

Scenic Designer

Santa Fe Opera

Larry Reed

Projections Designer

Craig Miller headshot

Craig Miller

Lighting Designer

Gary Wedow headshot

Gary Wedow

Chorus Master