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Anna-Maria Rentzeperi-Tsonou: Ancient Greece and Opera Print E-mail

Anna-Maria Rentzeperi-Tsonou: Ancient Greece and Opera – The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus is one of the most significant poets and musicians of Ancient Greek Mythology. His lyre playing had supernatural forces. The myth of Orpheus and nymph Eurydice is probably a late addition to the Orphic myths and is presented in several versions by various ancient philosophers and authors as Plato, Virgil and Ovid. The theme of the myth inspired many composers of the European Opera from the beginning of the 17th to 21st century. In this study is examined the arrangement of the libretti in three operas and one operetta: Claudio Monteverdi’s La favola d’ Orfeo (1607), Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (Italian version 1762, French version 1774), Joseph Haydn’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1791) and Jacques Offenbach’s, Orphée aux enfers (operetta, 1858). Similarities and differences among their libretti are pointed out and several versions of the myth, which are their basis, are presented. According to this study the following differentiations of the libretti were found out and analyzed:  the beginning of the operas in comparison with the myth, Eurydice’s ancestry, the place and the time that the snake bit her and the ending of the operas. The libretto of Offenbach’s operetta is of course strongly differentiated from the operas’ libretti as it is a parody of the myth.

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