In his famous "opera bouffe" Orpheus in the Underworld, Jacques Offenbach explores in a comic way the tragic story of lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. It is staged here by Laurent Pelly at the Opéra National de Lyon and performed by Natalie Dessay (Eurydice) and Yann Beuron (Orpheus).
In this funny version of Orphée's ancient myth, his highly famous complaint "I have lost my Eurydice" seems to be a victory roar... In this opera composed after a libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy, premiered in 1858 at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, Offenbach and the librettists give characters back to life in a highly humorous way.
It is the story of a domestic squabble between bitter lovers Eurydice and Orpheus: Eurydice is fed up with Orpheus musical talent, but they cannot break off. So that Orpheus decides to ask shepherd Aristaeus – who is Pluto himself disguised – for his help. He wants him to seduce Eurydice to lead her die in a trap. Eurydice dies and goes to the Underworld. Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, but Public Opinion comes to moralize Orpheus: he must save his honour in saving Eurydice...
The fanciful staging perfectly highlights Offenbach's Genius and humor: indeed he was the composer who created the genre of French "opéra bouffe". Natalie Dessay and Yann Beuron remarkably perform this opera with voices full of expressiveness and a beautiful stage presence. They really transform this domestic squabble into a funny story.
ORPHÉE AUX ENFERS
Dale Duesing, Elizabeth Vidal, Alexandru Badea
Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Théâtre de la Monnaie
This finely-focused and witty production of Jacques Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers with sets, costumes and lighting by the director Herbert Wernicke, is a visual and musical delight. The burlesque – conducted by Patrick Davin – is situated in a famous fin de siècle café and with a stupendous coup de théâtre the ensemble makes its entry into hell in a steam locomotive, which crashes through the ceiling. Elizabeth Vidal and Alexandru Badea in the main roles are supported energetically by the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Offenbach’s famous “can-can” is, as ever, an intoxicating highlight. In Offenbach’s light and elegant comedy based on the Greek legend of Orpheus – a veiled satire on Napoleon III’s régime – a dissolute bunch of gods, bored with the cushioned confines of Mount Olympus, are in a rebellious mood. They are delighted to go slumming in Hell with the duplicitous Jupiter, who agrees personally to return Eurydice (now Pluto’s lover) to her reluctant (and unfaithful) husband, hoping that, in the process, she will succumb to his charms.