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Orpheus and Eurydice Free Admission Opera at Ancient Corinth

Temple Of Apollo in Corinth, Greece
An opera based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice will be performed in front of the Temple of Apollo at the archaeological site of Corinth, with free admission, on the evening of August 29, 2023. Credit: Jean Housen / wikimedia commons CC BY 3.0

Corinth-based Fondation Kaloy will host a single free admission performance of Ch. W. Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice, performed by an ensemble of more than forty artists of Merano Academy’s Amaté Cultural Association, at the archaeological site of ancient Corinth, on Tuesday, August 29, 9 pm.

The 18th-century opera is based on the omonymous ancient Greek myth which tells of the fateful love story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

The performance will be presented in front of the ancient temple of god Apollo – father to Orpheus, according to the myth – and will be sung in the opera’s original language, Italian, with an introduction in Greek.

The participating young European soloists, Merano Academy’s Amaté Choir and Orchestra will perform under the direction of Richard J. Sigmund.

“Just before the second full moon of August rises, in ancient Corinth, Orpheus will beg the gods to give him back his wife. There, the god of love will intercede with Zeus to bring the beautiful Eurydice back from the realm of the dead,” says Maria Christara, President of Fondation Kaloy.

Orpheus and Eurydice among most frequently retold Greek myths

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice opera premiered in Vienna on October 5, 1762, and was to become the composer’s best known work, which he re-adapted in French twelve years later.

Based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and set to a libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, the opera belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing.

The tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice is among the most frequently retold of all Greek myths, from Plato and the great Roman poets to Renaissance operas and 20th-century video games.

Orpheus and Eurydice by Edward Poynter, 1862
An 1862 painting by Edward Poynter showing Orpheus trying to retrieve Eurydice from the underworld. Orpheus and Eurydice Credit: Edward Poynter / Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

A legendary ancient Greek love story

According to legend, Orpheus, the son of god Apollo and the muse Calliope, was gifted with an unparalleled singing and music-playing talent; his music could charm all living things.

But when his beautiful wife Eurydice died, his attempt to retrieve her from the underworld would lead himself to a tragic ending.

Descended into the world of the dead just to see her, Orpheus played a song so heartbreaking that even Hades, the god of the underworld, was moved to compassion.

He allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice back with him, but under one condition: she would have to follow behind him while walking out from the underworld, and he could not turn to look at her until they were out in the world of the living.

Orpheus accepted the offer with delight, but as he was ascending back into the living world, unable to hear Eurydice’s footsteps, who followed him as a shade until she would become a full woman again, the musician began to fear the god had fooled him.

A few steps away from the exit, Orpheus lost his faith and turned to see Eurydice behind him, sending her back to be trapped in the underworld forever.

maenad woman with Tattoo in ancient Greece killing Orpheus
A tattooed Thracian Maenad killing Orpheus is shown on a red-figure amphora. Credit: Twitter / Michael Lara / Louvre Museum

He was eventually killed by the Maenad nymphs, who got tired of Orpheus’s constant mourning for his lost wife.

The legendary musician, who had also been among the mythical Argo ship crew, was celebrated by the ancient Greeks during the Orphic mysteries, built around the Orphic cult which survived until at least the Hellenistic times.

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