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With open access to the underworld, Orpheus begs Eurydice from Pluto its king. He finds a strong ally in Proserpina, queen of the dead, if only because she is but semi-resident in Hades, and more than understands why Orpheus is grief-stricken that Eurydice should be permanently confined to the shades. She gets her way with Pluto [listen -- 'Quali grazie ti rendo' (Act 4), DVD2 chapter 16, 0:00-1:33]. The conditions of Eurydice's release need no restatement. It is perhaps unfortunate that in this production the potentially happy couple gets apparently no further than the shore of Styx before Orpheus's will falters and he fatally turns his head [listen -- 'Ma tu, anima mia' (Act 5), DVD2 chapter 25, 0:00-1:19].

John Mark Ainsley as Orpheus (Orfeo) in Act 5. DVD screenshot © 1997 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte
John Mark Ainsley as Orpheus (Orfeo) in Act 5. DVD screenshot © 1997 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

The ending of the opera has always been a matter of debate. The original libretto of 1607 has Orpheus prudently on the run from a rout of Bacchantes bent on his destruction, as specified in Classical sources. Two years later Monteverdi provided a manifestation of Apollo to comfort Orpheus with transfer to heaven and an eternity of gazing at the remote twinkling of Eurydice as a distant star. Monteverdi's music is convincing enough and the chorus accepts the solution as eminently satisfactory [listen -- 'Ritornello -- Vanne, Orfeo, felice a pieno' (Act 5), DVD2 chapter 27, 0:00-1:06]. As so often, in this performance sound prevails over action, and Stephen Stubbs is to be congratulated on an imaginative realisation of Monteverdi's often cryptic instructions.

Copyright © 18 January 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


Claudio Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

OA 0928 D 2xDVD9, 16/9 anamorphic PAL, all regions LPCM Stereo, Digital DTS Surround NEW RELEASE 140' 1997 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

John Mark Ainsley, Orfeo; Juanita Lascarro, Eurydice; Brigitte Balleys, La Messagiera; Russell Smythe, Apollo/Pastore II/Spirito; David Cordier, La Musica; Michael Chance, La Speranza; Mario Luperi, Caronte; Bernarda Fink, Proserpina; Dean Robinson, Plutone/Pastore IV; Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Pastore I/Eco/Spirito; Douglas Nasrawi, Pastore III/Spirito; Suzie Le Blanc, Ninfa; Tragicomedia and Concerto Palatino; Stephen Stubbs, musical director; Vocal ensemble prepared by Winfried Maczewski; Pierre Audi, stage director; Michael Simon, set design; Jorge Jara, set design; Jean Kalman, lighting design; Hans Hulscher, TV director; George van Breemen sr and Frank van Pragg, TV executive producers; Henk van der Meulen, commissioning editor; Ferenc van Damme, DVD producer; Hans Petri, DVD executive producer

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): L'Orfeo (Favola in Musica, libretto by Alessandro Striggio, first performed at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, 24 February 1607); Extra features: Illustrated synopsis; Cast gallery; Introduction to the opera, including interviews with Stephen Stubbs, Pierre Audi and John Mark Ainsley


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