HENRY PURCELL • Ground, Aria and Ritornello of Dido
“When I am laid in earth” from Dido and Aeneas
CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK • “Che farò senza Euridice” from Orfeo ed Euridice
JOSEPH HAYDN • “Al tuo seno fortunato” aus L’anima del filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice
JACQUES OFFENBACH • Le jugement de Páris “Au mont Ida, trois Déesses” aus La Belle Hélène
and other works
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Many other composers since Claudio Monteverdi have attempted to recreate the strains of Orpheus in their work. However, it is not only Orpheus’ singing, with which he compelled nature and the gods, but also his lament for the lost Eurydice that has challenged so many composers to put pen to paper. One of the most moving examples is undoubtedly the aria “Che faro senza Euridice,” which Gluck created in his L’Orfeo. The yearning for death captured in this piece can be compared with that found by Henry Purcell for his figure of Dido about 100 years earlier: with “When I am laid in earth”, she bids the world farewell after her lover Aeneas has chosen to obey Jupiter’s command and abandon her.
Joseph Haydn treads a very unusual path in his Orfeo opera, which is already apparent in the title, L’anima del filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice. After Eurydice is killed by a snakebite, Orpheus loses his voice, as it were. In Haydn’s work, it is a genius whose highly virtuoso singing leads us to the Underworld.
In the 19th century, the brilliant satirist Jacques Offenbach caused quite a stir in the world of the gods. In March 1858, he wrote to his librettist, Ludovic Halévy, “The idea of bringing Olympus down to the level of our own earth has always fascinated me… But simply bringing the gods down to earth and having them sing waltzes is not enough. They must be torn out of their divine sphere, yet remain confidently divine all the same. Let the gods speak our language; they should live in their classical costumes and comment on us, not vice versa.”