The Story

Eurydice is betrothed to the great musician Orpheus, but ill omens threaten their marriage. The shepherd Aristaeus also loves Eurydice, and is anguished by her rejection of him. Venus offers her help to win Eurydice for Aristaeus.

Venus’ plans go awry and Eurydice dies. Her spirit torments Aristaeus and he becomes mad. Orpheus journeys into Hell to bring Eurydice back, but breaks Pluto’s rules and loses her forever. In the land of the living, Venus demands Orpheus’ death – but instead, Jupiter grants the musician immortality among the stars.


The Rome-based composer Luigi Rossi (c1597–1653) wrote his three-act opera Orpheus(1647) for the French royal court during his sojourn there in the late 1640s. Orpheus was described as a ‘Roman’ opera but it went far beyond what had been achieved in Rome, making full use of the innovative stage machinery that had been developed for the French grand ballet. Rossi matched the pageantry and spectacle of the stage effects with glorious music – a wealth of enchanting arias and lively ensembles – that represented a climax both in his work and in court opera as a whole.

Keith Warner (The Royal Opera’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and Wozzeck) directs a new production of Rossi’s masterpiece for The Royal Opera in collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. This unique candlelit space, modelled on a Jacobean indoor theatre, is the ideal venue to re-create the sumptuous spectacle and intimate environment of early court opera. Orpheus follows in the footsteps of L’Ormindo, The Royal Opera’s first collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe and a sell-out success. The opera will be performed in English with a new translation by Christopher Cowell, whose many credits for English National Opera include Medea.



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