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Orfeo Illustration by Benedetto Cristofani Santa Fe Opera 2023 Season


July 29 - August 24, 2023

Don’t Look Back!

Legendary lovers, Orfeo and Euridice, face death and separation. They undertake a perilous journey from the underworld back to the world of the living. One rule must be followed: Orfeo cannot look at Euridice. His conviction falters, he turns …

This visually breath-taking new production will be directed by MacArthur Prize Winner Yuval Sharon. Starring tenor Rolando Villazón and featuring a new orchestration by Nico Muhly.


Music By
Claudio Monteverdi
World Premiere Orchestration By
Nico Muhly
Libretto By
Alessandro Striggio
Sung In
Instant Translation Screen
English and Spanish
Production support generously provided by
The Avenir Production Fund
Additional artistic support provided by
Sarah Billinghurst Solomon
Brautigam-Kaplan-Ostergaard Foundation
The performances of Rolando Villazón are supported by
Gene & Jean Stark
Production Illustration By
Benedetto Cristofani
Run Time
Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes; no intermission


  • Prologue-Act V

    La Musica (Music) addresses the audience: she desires to sing of the demigod Orfeo, whose music-making tamed wild beasts and infernal spirits alike.

    Act I
    Shepherds and nymphs rejoice at the wedding of Orfeo and Euridice. The bridal couple proclaim their perfect happiness and make their way to the temple to offer tribute.

    Act II
    Orfeo, happy to be in his home country of Thrace, comes to make merry with the shepherds, turning the very air to gold with his song. Silvia, the Messenger, bursts in with the news that Eurydice has been bitten by a serpent and is already dead. Orfeo is stunned. He refuses to believe they can ever be parted and vows to find her in the underworld, either to bring her back to the light of the day or to remain in Hades with her forever. Grief-stricken Silvia retires to mourn alone. The shepherds lament.

    Act III
    At the gates of hell, Orfeo is visited by the goddess Speranza (Hope), who encourages him to seek Euridice in the underworld. She regretfully must leave him there, for the sign reads, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter.” Refused passage across the Styx by Caronte the boatman, Orfeo nevertheless sings his way into Hades, singing Caronte into a deep sleep. The Spirits champion the enterprising and undaunted human spirit.

    Act IV
    Proserpina begs her husband Plutone, in the name of their love, to release Euridice. The Spirits second her plea. Plutone relents and allows Orfeo to reclaim her on the condition that he not look back at her while he is leading her home. Fearing deceit, he looks back. All is lost. She is forced to remain, and he is forced back to the land of the living. The Spirits remark that a man may conquer hell, but if he conquer not himself, he has not won the victory.

    Act V
    Orfeo wanders the Thracian fields alone with his redoubled grief. His father Apollo, god of music, appears and invites him to join the gods, where he will be able to see Eurydice from the stars. They ascend to Heaven together.