Orpheus in the Underworld
Book and Lyrics by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy. Music by Jacques Offenbach.
Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, Paris - 21 October, 1858
Stadt Theatre, Broadway - March, 1861 (in German)
Her Majesty's Theatre, London - December 26, 1865 (76 perfs) - adapted by J.R. Planché
Revised 4-Act version - Théâtre de Gaïté, Paris - February 7, 1874
Presented at Sadler's Wells, 16 May, 1960 English by Geoffrey Dunn -
The first of Offenbach's outrageously funny 'send-ups' of Greek mythology, this is an unashamedly Gallic version of the classic legend of Orpheus's pursuit of his wife Eurydice, who is carried off to Hades by Pluto - much to the annoyance of Jupiter. A highly disrespectful romp, it involves nymphs, shepherds, gods and goddesses, with the fun reaching its climax in the riotous revels of the celebrated "Can-Can". A lively and highly enjoyable show for both performers and audience, with many world-famous tunes.
After the brief overture the curtain rises on a pastoral scene in the countryside around the ancient Greek city of Thebes. Eurydice enters and sings of the shepherd boy Aristaeus, with whom she is having an affair. Eurydice is busy decorating Aristaeus' cottage when her husband, Orpheus, appears. He demands to know what Eurydice is doing. She tells him she loves Aristaeus and adds that she cannot stand Orpheus' fiddle-scraping. In revenge, Orpheus starts to play his latest 75-minute concerto and completely ignores his wife's pleas for him to stop.
Orpheus would love to relinquish Eurydice to Aristaeus, but Public Opinion would not allow it. Instead, Orpheus decides to get rid of Aristaeus and tells Eurydice of the nasty surprise which he has left in the shepherd's cornfield. When Aristaeus appears, Eurydice tries to stop him entering the cornfield, but he ignores her. Eurydice follows him, but suffers a snake bite. Suddenly, Aristaeus turns into his real self: Pluto, Lord of Hades. Eurydice falls, dying, into Aristaeus' arms. Eurydice dies but Pluto brings her briefly back to life so she can leave a farewell note for Orpheus. That done, Pluto takes her down to his underworld realm.
Orpheus finds Eurydice's note and, after his initial surprise, realises how pleased he is to be rid of his wife. His joy is short-lived. Public Opinion enters and demands that Orpheus go down to Hades to get Eurydice hack. Orpheus protests but, mindful of his professional reputation, he grudgingly agrees.
The scene changes to Mount Olympus where the god Morpheus (Dr Morpheus) is scattering poppies to induce the gods to sleep. Venus, Cupid and Mars, however, have been up all night. They return home, decidedly worn out. Soon afterwards, Mercury, messenger of the gods, arrives. The young, swaggering god, ordered by Jupiter to investigate the disappearance of Eurydice, comes breezing on to Mount Olympus to tell of his findings.
Orpheus enters together with Public Opinion, who wants to ensure that Orpheus does the honourable thing, that is, ask Jupiter to restore his wife to him. Pluto, of course, has lied to Jupiter about the location of Eurydice, whom he is keeping in his boudoir in Hades. She is guarded by John Styx. Styx was the King of Beotia. Now reduced to being Pluto's gaoler, he tries to entertain Eurydice with an account of his royal past.
When Orpheus and the gods arrive, Styx locks Eurydice in a back room. As there is no sign of her, Jupiter puts the abduction question before a tribunal. What he really wants, though, is to have Eurydice for himself and, to that end, he enlists the help of his young son, Cupid. Eurydice is located by Cupid's love police. Jupiter then turns himself into a fly to get past the keyhole of the locked door. Eurydice loves the fly. Jupiter reveals himself and invites Eurydice to meet him at a party on Mount Olympus.
Eurydice attends disguised as a bacchante, a follower of Bacchus, god of wine, but Pluto realises who she is and blocks Jupiter's path when Jupiter tries to make off with her. Jupiter again accuses Pluto of abducting Eurydice. When Orpheus and Public Opinion appear, Jupiter tells Orpheus he can take his wife away, but only if he does not look back at her as they go. When Orpheus fails this test, Pluto claims Eurydice. Jupiter, however, takes her away from Pluto by announcing that he is turning her into a real bacchante. Everyone, except Pluto and Public Opinion, is delighted and the operetta climaxes with the energetic Can-Can, danced by all the gods and goddesses.
6 female, 9 male
Aristée (Aristaeus) otherwise Pluton (Pluto), King of the Underworld
Junon (Juno), his wifeI
Orphée (Orpheus), a music teacher
Eurydice, his wife
Opinion Publique (Public Opinion)
Gods, Godesses, etc.
flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, percussion, harp, strings. Professional Version: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussion, strings
Eurydice Is All A Flutter
I Feel A Cool Intoxication
Tzing, Tzing, Tzing, Tzing
A Night On The Town
Look Out, Look Out, Move Over There
He Is Coming, Oh, How Boring
Though I Was The King Of All Beotia
We Can Tell She's In Hell
It's Strange But A Touch Seems To Wake
Do Not Look Back Or All Will Be Lost
Infernal Gallop (Can-Can)
The following details relate to an adaptation by Phil
Park and Ronald Hanmer for amateur performance.
EURYDICE - wife of Orpheus
CALLIOPE - Muse of Poetry, mother of Orpheus
CUPID - god of love
VENUS - goddess of beauty
DIANA - goddess of hunting
JUNO - wife of Jupiter
ORPHEUS - professor of music
PLUTO - King of Hades
JUPITER - King of the gods
MARS - god of war
MERCURY - messenger of the gods
BACCHUS - god of wine
STYX - servant of Pluto
ICARUS - pilot of the balloon
Note on Principal Characters
- EURYDICE- attractive and flirtatious. Soprano.
- CALLIOPE- stately matron, with sense of humour. Mezzo-Soprano.
- CUPID- the traditional "Eros", god of love; the mischievous "boy" who, with his bow-and-arrow, promotes romances. Soprano.
- VENUS- statuesque, rather conceited and sophisticated. Soprano.
- DIANA- fetching "outdoor-girl" type, with a young-and-healthy attitude to romance. Soprano.
- JUNO- comedy-personality; rather scatter-brained, and generally in a fluster over Jupiter's infidelities. Mezzo-soprano.
- ORPHEUS- a personable but somewhat ineffectual young man, rather tiresomely proud of his musical prowess. High Baritone.
- PLUTO- a smoothly-mature and debonair character. There is a hint of Mephistopheles about him, but he is gay, amusing and completely non-sinister. High Baritone.
- JUPITER- character-comedian. Pseudo-dignified, he enjoys being King of Olympus and "papa" of the gods and goddesses, who know him to be a wily old rogue with an incurable fondness for the ladies. Comedian Baritone.
- MARS- burly but not brainy; the hectoring warrior-hero type in manner and appearance, but in reality more the overgrown schoolboy. Baritone.
- MERCURY- the traditional youthful and athletic messenger with winged heels and head-dress. Baritone.
- BACCHUS - juvenile-lead type, preferably dancer; non-singing.
- STYX- a rather pathetic, gentle character, whose present lowly status is made tolerable only by a wealth of memories. Baritone.
- ICARUS- the handle-bar-moustache "RAF-type" of the cartoons, ante-dated in terms of Grecian Mythology. Baritone.
In this new version of Orpheus in the Underworld, the
orchestration has been carefully arranged to meet the requirements of
modest or large orchestras.
The minimum combination for an effective performance is: Flute; 1st B flat Clarinet; 1st and 2nd Trumpets; 1st Trombone; Percussion and Strings. Thereafter, instruments should be added in the following order: 2nd B flat Clarinet; Oboe; 2nd Trombone; Bassoon; 1st and 2nd Horns and lastly, Harp.
The work is liberally cued. In the absence of the Oboe, the 1st Trumpet should play these cues muted. Oboe cues are doubled in Flute and Clarinet parts where practicable, and the Horn and Bassoon cues appear in Cello, Trombone and Trumpet parts. It is emphasized that a complete string section should be used (1st and 2nd Violins, Viola, Cello and Bass), but Clarinet parts contain many essentiál cues to be played in absence of a Viola. The string parts are bowed and fingered where necessary, and the 1st Violin has all important melody cues throughout. This vocal score carries instrumentation marks for the musical director's assistance.
The violin solos in this work have been gathered together in a special book, which can be obtained upon application to the publishers, Josef Weinberger Ltd.
- OPENING ACT I (Chorus with Calliope) - "The evening shadows soon
- A NYMPH IN LOVE (Eurydice) - "A nymph in love ever dreaming"
- THE VIOLIN DUET (Eurydice and Orpheus) - "So, that's how you feel?"
- A SHEPHERD AM I (Pluto, as Aristaeus, and Girls) - "Friends, a shepherd
- MORTALS BELOW, GODS UP ABOVE (Eurydice, Pluto and Chorus) - "Mortals
below, gods above"
- INVOCATION (Eurydice and Chorus) - "Beloved, stay I pray you"
6a - THE AWAKENING
6b - PLUTO EXIT
- FINALE ACT I (Orpheus, Calliope, Pupils and Chorus) - "I must do
as I am bid"
- OPENING ACT II (Orchestral)
- LAMENT FOR ACTEON (Diana, Venus, Jupiter and Chorus) - "Fair Diana,
- BALLOON SONG (Calliope, Orpheus and Icarus) - "When I consider all
the various ways"
- NOTHING WE CAN DO (Juno, Pluto and Jupiter) - "For as I hear tell
you've been up to your tricks
- TO ARMS (Ensemble) - "To arms, Olympian divinities"
- HA-HA-HA! (Cupid, Venus, Diana, Mars and Chorus) - "Whenever Jupiter's
- FINALE ACT II (Ensemble) - "Here they come now"
- SORRY I CAME (Eurydice) - "Behold me alone and neglected"
- CHERCHEZ LA FEMME! (Pluto, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and
Styx) - "Whenever any man's dejected"
- THE HADES CHORUS (Chorus, Venus and Cupid) - "Long live our king
and long live wine forever"
- REPRISE: "MORTALS BELOW, GODS UP ABOVE" (Eurydice, Pluto
- MINUET (Jupiter, Pluto and Ensemble) - "If I had my way so called
- GALOP (Ensemble)
- ENTRANCE OF ORPHEUS
- FINALE ACT III (Full Company) - "Though to gaze on her doubtless"
- CURTAIN CALL (Full Company) - "Now to Olympus say goodbye"
17a - "I WAS A KING (Styx)
18a - THE "FLY" DUET (Eurydice and Jupiter)
19a - HYMN TO BACCHUS (Eurydice and Chorus)
Scenes and Settings
A Landscape near Thebes
(a) Pluto's Den
The action of the operetta takes place, without any regard for credibility, in unspecified ANCIENT TIMES.