Michael Boyd directs a new production of Monteverdi’s masterpiece, the first great opera, at the Roundhouse.
On her wedding day Euridice is bitten by a snake and dies. Her husband, the great musician Orfeo, pursues her spirit down into the underworld.
Orfeo’s exquisite music enchants Proserpina, the Queen of Hades, who pleads with her consort Pluto for clemency. Pluto allows Orfeo to lead Euridice into the land of the living, provided he doesn’t look back at his wife. Orfeo cannot resist, and loses her.
The history of great opera begins with the premiere of Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo on 24 February 1607 in the ducal palace in Mantua. It was Monteverdi’s first opera, produced as courtly entertainment for the carnival season. For this ‘favola in musica’ (story in music) he incorporated existing musical forms, such as madrigals and the newly developed recitative (singing with speech-like rhythms and minimal accompaniment). But the result was revolutionary, possessing a powerful emotional truth that had never been seen before in musical dramas. Orfeo is rightly acclaimed as the first operatic work of art.
A new collaboration between the Roundhouse and The Royal Opera, Orfeo follows on from L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, in spring 2014. Former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Michael Boyd directs in his operatic debut, with a production that features post-graduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and participants of East London Dance.