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Orpheus in the Underworld

Original French Libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy
English Translation by Richard Traubner
Music by Jacques Offenbach

This is the work that started it all! When Parisian licensing agents, in 1858, lifted the four-character, one-act restrictions on “light stage works,” Jacques Offenbach and his librettists dusted off a larger-scale—and thus prohibited—work that had been prepared some time before. Unlike the zany plotlines of the composer’s 30 previous one-act works, it boldly tackled, with full irreverence, one of the most beloved legends of Greek mythology. Its unprecedented run at the Bouffes-Parisiens sparked the development of both the Viennese and British schools of operetta. Differing significantly from the legend, Orpheus and wife Eurydice can’t stand each other. He has his eye on the nymph Chloë, while she has fallen for the shepherd Aristaeus (really Pluto, King of the Underworld). Jupiter intervenes—in the guise of a fly—as the story unfolds in true Offenbachian fashion. The musical score, described by one historian as “the most dazzling display of light, comic theater music in the history of the genre,” is capped off by the “galop infernale”—known to us as the “can-can.”


July 13, 16, 19, 22, 27

2023 Orpheus in the Underworld show art