At the time he composed Orfeo ed Euridice (“Orpheus and Eurydice"), Christoph Willibald Gluck wrote, “I believe that my greatest labor should be devoted to seeking a beautiful simplicity…and there is no rule which I have not thought it right to set aside willingly for the sake of the intended effect.” Gluck and his librettist, Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, even wrote a manifesto in their intention to reclaim the story from the singers. Above all, they sought for the music and the text to be straightforward and direct: a “noble simplicity” that serves to reinforce the power of the drama.
That, at least, was the intent. What happened next was that Gluck’s “revolutionary” opera got translated (from Italian to French), compromised, and bowdlerized. As Martin Pearlman writes, “What we generally hear in performances of the opera is not the bold, innovative work that Gluck originally wrote. Rather, it is most often either a later version by Gluck himself, an adaptation by Berlioz, Liszt or others, or a composite of more than one version—all of which have watered down the succinctness and impact of the original drama.”
That’s not the case in this Boston Baroque production from March of 2012, captured in concert at the New England Conversatory’s Jordan Hall. Singing the role of Orfeo is countertenor Owen Willetts. Euridice, his opposite, is soprano Mary Wilson. The third solo role is that of Amor – Love, sung by soprano Courtney Huffman. And, as the program book notes, you will hear “Choruses of nymphs and shepherds, of monsters and furies, of Elysian heroes and heroines, and of followers of Orpheus.” Martin Pearlman conducts the orchestra and chorus of Boston Baroque.
Hear Orfeo ed Eurydice Part I
Hear Orfeo ed Eurydice Part II
Download program notes
HEAR THE OPERA, DOWNLOAD PROGRAM NOTES, AND SEE SLIDESHOW