29.09.–07.11.2023 / Opera

Or­pheus in der Unter­welt

Jacques Offenbach
Racy, funny, salacious: Greek saga as a colourful operetta spectacle
Opéra bouffon in two acts and four scenes
(Composite version 1858/1874)
Libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy
In French and German with German surtitles
approx. 3 hours, one interval
For all from 14 upwards
It is a real wolf in sheep's clothing who upsets Eurydice. Pluto, the god of the underworld, enters her life in the form of the charmingly modest and nature-loving Monsieur Aristée, and suddenly everything changes: full of longing and a thirst for adventure, she swaps her unfulfilled existence at the side of her Orpheus, a violin virtuoso who is as brilliant as he is vain, for the erotic temptations of Pluto's shadowy realm. A twist of fate, which Orpheus, although thoroughly jealous, in no way wants to stand in the way of. On the contrary: Eurydice's lustful escape into the realm of death cannot come fast enough for him. And so he actually wants nothing less than to win back his dissolute wife.

Jacques Offenbach and his librettist Ludovic Halévy turn ancient Greek mythology on its head with their "Orpheus in the Underworld". With wit and a somnambulistically sure sense for double bottoms, they drive Orpheus' search for his beloved unloved from one bitterly wicked punch line to the next and make the wild travesty, to which Offenbach tailored a music as rich in quotations as it is addicted to disguise, respectable. The escapist life of the divine Hallodris is brought to a head by director Barrie Kosky, who returns to the Deutsche Oper am Rhein with this celebrated co-production with the Salzburg Festival and the Komische Oper Berlin. Kosky transports his Eurydice into an underworld that is anything but hostile to the senses and weary of life; rather, life is celebrated here in a cheeky, frivolous, breathless and shrill manner.

Co-production with Salzburger Festspiele and Komische Oper Berlin
Die öffentliche Meinung
John Styx
Giorgia Bortoluzzi, Jessica Falceri, Luisa Mancarella/Brittany Young, Claudia Greco, Luissa Joachimstaller
Kai Chun Chuang, Joseph Edy, Tiziano Edini, Alessio Urzetta, Daniel Ojeda, Davide De Biasi, Giulian Minaudo

Scene one
This is not how Orpheus and Eurydice had imagined marriage. Instead of glowing admiration
for his musical genius, Orpheus encounters a highly emotional aversion to his
»fiddling« from his wife, as the sparkling lifestyle of the wife of a great artist has already
turned into everyday boredom at the side of a vain violin teacher. It is therefore no surprise
that the disillusioned couple openly seek happiness in erotic adventures elsewhere:
Orpheus finds the adoration he longs for among his female pupils and is taken with the
nymph Maquilla. Eurydice is attracted to their new neighbour, the honey seller Aristaeus,
not suspecting that he is actually the God Pluto who wishes to kidnap this attractive mortal
and carry her off to the underworld. His plan succeeds, and Eurydice submits to her fate
willingly. Orpheus is cheerfully adjusting to his role as a widower when Public Opinion
intervenes. She blackmails Orpheus into demanding Eurydice’s return — by appealing directly
to Jupiter himself — otherwise his artistic reputation will be ruined. Public Opinion
agrees to accompany him to Mount Olympus and provide her support.

Scene two
Boredom also reigns on Olympus. The absolutist regime of the father of the gods Jupiter
offers few amusements, while divine pleasures such as nectar and ambrosia become dull
and tasteless after a while. As a result, the gods are starting to rebel. A rumour spreads that
a god has kidnapped the beautiful Eurydice. Juno suspects that her husband Jupiter is behind
this affair: she has painful experience of his notorious infidelities. Outraged by this
insinuation, Jupiter summons Pluto because he is alleged to be the actual perpetrator. Pluto,
however, is insistent in his denial and not even the appearance of Orpheus and Public
Opinion is enough to deter him. Jupiter, now eager to meet Eurydice, decides to travel to
the underworld so that he can assess the situation for himself. His entire family will be allowed
to accompany him, a concession to the rebellious gods who decide to postpone
their protest.


Scene three
Meanwhile Eurydice is already bored in Pluto’s apartments. What happened to the passion
that she had hoped for from her abductor? Instead, she is kept hidden under the watchful
gaze of John Styx, a strange oddball who claims to have been a prince once before entering
the lower orders as Pluto’s valet. The deputation from Olympus arrives, full of curiosity.
In a ridiculous back and forth between Jupiter and Pluto, the latter continues to deny being
responsible for the kidnapping. Eurydice remains out of sight. In the monotony of her isolation,
she becomes aware of a fly that comes buzzing through the keyhole: a fly with golden
wings that allows Eurydice to catch it easily. This is Jupiter, who once again approaches a
woman he desires in animal form and promises Eurydice he will enable her to escape in
secret from the boredom of her prison.

Scene four
Pluto gives a magnificent feast for his guests from Olympus. Jupiter is in the mood for dancing,
having scored an erotic success with Eurydice disguised as a fly and achieved a minor
victory over his rival Pluto. Everyone is having great fun when suddenly Public Opinion
bursts in with her protégé and interrupts the divine celebrations. Orpheus has no choice
but to demand Eurydice back from Jupiter. Under pressure from the assembled gods, Jupiter
agrees, though he specifies one condition: on his way out of the underworld Orpheus
must not look back at his wife, otherwise he will lose her forever. Orpheus and Eurydice
set off on their way. Even before they reach the river Styx that marks the boundary — Jupiter
is about to dispatch a lightning bolt in order to stop them — Eurydice takes her fate in
her own hands and seizes her husband’s violin. Orpheus turns around in shock. Eurydice
has the last word and fools them all: she allies herself forever with the god Bacchus, throwing
herself passionately into the freedom of her new life as a Bacchante. //

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