In ancient Greek mythology, Orpheus was a priest of Apollo and a fabulous musician, and Eurydice was his beautiful wife, whom Orpheus attempted to bring back to life from the realms of the dead.
On this day in 1774, in Paris, the first performance of the French version of the opera "Orpheus and Eurydice" by Christoph Willibald Gluck took place. Gluck originally wrote the opera in Italian, but for the French version in 1774, the composer added some new instrumental music, including this serene interlude depicting the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" —an excerpt that has become one of Gluck's most famous and best-loved works.
Over the centuries, at least 65 operas have been written on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice. In fact, two of the very first operas every written concern this mythological tale— one was by Jacopo Peri performed in 1600 and another by Claudio Monteverdi from 1607.
One of the more recent ones based on the Orpheus legend — a chamber opera by Philip Glass, was based on a libretto he adapted from the film, "Orphée," by the surrealistic French poet and director Jean Cocteau. The American Repertory Theatre and the Brooklyn Academy of Music commissioned Glass's version in 1993.
Music Played in Today's Program
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)Dance of the Blessed Spirits, fr OrphéeAcademy of Ancient Music; Christopher Hogwood, cond.L'oiseau Lyre 410 553
Philip Glass (b.1937)Act 2 Interlude, fr OrphéeStuttgart Chamber Orchestra; Dennis Russell Davies, cond.Nonesuch 79496-2