Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo recounts the ancient story of Orpheus, who after celebrating his wedding, must descend to Hades in a quest to bring back Eurydice, his bride, who has died of a snake bite. After beguiling the powers that be with song, he is told that he may reclaim Eurydice–but there’s a catch (isn’t there always?): he cannot look back at her to see if she is following as he leads her back to the world of the living.
L’Orfeo is one of the first operas, written in 1607, and it is still performed today. Monteverdi didn’t invent opera (Jacopo Peri did), but as Howard Goodall puts it, Monteverdi was the first one to write good opera.1
You can now see Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for free on The Opera Platform. The opera is presented by the Komische Oper Berlin, with new orchestration by Elena Kats-Chernin. The opera is performed in German. There are no subtitles, but here are some libretto links: in German, in English and Italian. The full score may be found here.
The opera will be available until June 30, 2017. Here’s the trailer.
And here you can see a lively aria from the opera. This does not sound like music from 1607! I hope you will enjoy it.
- BBC Howard Goodall’s Story of Music Episode 1 of 6: The Age of Discovery (time stamp 53:18) https://youtu.be/I0Y6NPahlDE?t=53m18s; also Goodall, Howard, The Story of Music. New York: Penguin Books, 2013, pp. 69-74.
Image attribution: Orpheus and Eurydice, painting by Edward Poynter, [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Poynter_-_Orpheus_and_Eurydice.jpg .