The one where Orpheus has the best jokes

The one where Orpheus has the best jokes


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2022

Jacques Offenbach’s opera is an irreverent take on the tragic story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Orpheus in the Underworld/Orphée aux enfers  is streamed by Slippedisc courtesy of OperaVision. Together with his librettists Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy, Jacques Offenbach creates a wonderful array of characters from the heavens who find themselves caught up in domestic antics.

Eurydice, the central figure, hates the music personified by her spouse, Orpheus, a humble music teacher from Thebes. Aristaeus, a shepherd and divine seducer, is actually Pluto himself disguised. Jupiter, father of the gods, is constantly on the prowl for the ladies. Yes the goddesses and gods are weary of everyday life on Olympus and are in search of diversions. Burning with curiosity about the beautiful abductee and the contest between Jupiter and Pluto for the favour of Eurydice, the illustrious company embarks on a hellish ride into the underworld, culminating in what is probably the most famous can-can in music history. In this enchanting production from the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence from 2009 with a young cast from the European Academy of Music, director Yves Beaunesne transposes the action to the 1940s and spreads it over the four floors of a bourgeois residence. From the kitchen (Orpheus’ home) to the attic (the Underworld), via the dining room (Olympus) and the bedroom (Pluto’s boudoir), he succeeds in teasing out all the humour and elegance of Offenbach’s satirical masterpiece.

Pauline Courtin sings the role of Eurydice, Julien Behr as Orphée, Mathias Vidal as Aristée/ Pluton and Vincent Deliau as Jupiter.