• July 2018
  • Galway

Orfeo ed Euridice

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

“Orfeo ed Euridice: An opera of intense, crisp energy ****” - Irish Times
“It's a triumph for all...truly unmissable” - Sunday Independent

The great musical myth. Orpheus rescues his wife Euridice from the Underworld. A revolutionary new mix of words, singing and dancing. And Gluck’s creative pursuit of beautiful simplicity and dramatic truth.

“There is no musical rule that I have not willingly sacrificed to dramatic effect” - Christoph Willibald von Gluck
“I read and re-read Gluck’s scores. I copied them and learnt them by heart. I went without sleep because of them and forgot to eat or drink. An ecstasy possessed me” - Hector Berlioz composer
“The reason Orfeo or anyone else starts the journey is Love. It is the only power which can bring us safely through” - Janet Baker Mezzo Soprano
“Mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty takes full possession of Orfeo’s wide range of emotions” - The Irish Times
“Sarah Power used her bright, personable soprano with unfailing taste and technical ease – supremely so in her mesmeric Act 3 aria… a fitting climax to the whole performance” - Opera Magazine




Act I

Orfeo, a poet and musician who can enchant wild beasts and move trees and rocks through his music, is mourning the death of his wife Euridice, who died from a snake bite. It’s as much as Orfeo can manage to utter her name as a group of mourners lament her passing. He wants to be alone with his sorrow. Orfeo resolves to claim his departed wife back from the gods.

Amor, the God of Love, appears and offers support, explaining that one of the Gods, Jove, has taken pity on Orfeo. He will be allowed into the underworld if he can appease the “furies, monsters and cruel death” with the power of his singing. There he will meet Euridice and be permitted to bring her back to the upper world. The catch is that they must make this journey without Orfeo looking at her and without explaining the prohibition that has been imposed on him. Otherwise he will lose her again. His blood freezes at the thought of her impatience and his own anguish. But he accepts the challenge.

Act II

A forbidding netherworld closes in around Orfeo who plays his lyre whilst the Furies mill around him, frightening him and interrupting his music.

A chorus of furies and spectres threaten and obstruct Orfeo as he begins his journey. The sound of his lyre, represented by the harp, and the calm of his voice contrast with the violence of the music which challenges him. The furies take pity on him and eventually allow him to pass.

Orfeo finds himself in the Elysian Fields, a paradise where he believes everyone is in peace except himself, bereft of his beloved Euridice. The chorus announces her arrival and lead Orfeo to her. Without Orfeo ever looking back they finally connect with each other once again.


Orfeo leads Euridice as he grapples with explanations for questions he cannot fully answer without breaching his bargain. The more he hears the less he can resist, as she longs for “but one single look”. They both endure extended, incomprehensible torture until he finally yields. He looks at her and loses her again and forever. The horror of this drives him to despair and sparks the opera’s most celebrated aria, Che farò senza Euridice? (What shall I do without Euridice?), as he contemplates life without the wife has lost twice over.

Gluck’s opera follows the operatic convention of the day by adding a happy ending where the lovers are reunited in life. Irish National Opera's production takes its inspiration from the original Greek myth which has a more powerful tragic conclusion. A final joyful celebration of the power of love is offered as a postscript.


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