Major Operas | Orfeo by Luigi Rossi | Early & Middle Baroque
Premiered: 1647, Paris
Libretto by Francesco Buti
The figure of Vittoria (Victory) and French soldiers sing of their victories and the power of their kingdom.
Euridice and her father, Endimione, consult a soothsayer regarding her forthcoming wedding to Orfeo. The omens are bad. Orfeo and Euridice celebrate their love for each other, while Aristeo, son of Bacco (Bacchus), laments his fate: he too is in love with Euridice. Having confided in his satyr, he calls for Venere (Venus) to prevent the marriage. Venere descends with Amore (Love) and the three Grazie (Graces), promising to help. Venere plans to trick Euridice into returning Aristeo’s love. During the wedding ceremony, the torches are extinguished – a bad omen. Orfeo and Euridice proclaim their love.
Disguised as an old woman, Venere approaches Euridice. She speaks of the bad omens surrounding Euridice’s marriage to Orfeo and offers Aristeo as an alternative husband, but Euridice refuses. The gods scold Amore for his part in the deception; he promises to help Orfeo and Euridice, and reveals the truth to Orfeo. The Grazie tell Venere of Amore’s betrayal; she swears vengeance. Endimione and the soothsayer pray to Venere, but Guinone (Juno) tells them to pray to her instead; she will protect the lovers. At the temple, Euridice sings of love, but she is bitten by a snake and dies.
As all mourn Euridice’s death, Orfeo is escorted to the underworld. Aristeo is driven mad by Euridice’s spirit and, mocked by Momo and the satyr, kills himself. Giunone sends Gelosia (Jealousy) to Proserpina and argues with the jubilant Venere. Gelosia tells Proserpina that her husband, Plutone (Pluto), may betray her for Euridice; Proserpina and Caronte (Charon) persuade Plutone to listen to Orfeo. Orfeo asks to be reunited with Euridice. Plutone agrees, on the condition that Orfeo not look back as they leave. Caronte reveals that Orfeo has not obeyed, and Euridice disappears. Venere entices Bacco to avenge Aristeo’s death; he orders the deaths of Orfeo and Euridice. Giove (Jupiter) transforms the two lovers and Orfeo’s lyre into constellations.
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