Orfeo Ed Euridice
ORFEO (Orpheus), the Greek legendary musician and singer, has lost his wife Euridice. His mournful songs fill the groves where he laments, and with them he touches the hearts not only of his friends but of the gods. On his wife’s grave Amor appears to him and bids him descend into Hades, where he is to move the Furies and the Elysian shadows with his sweet melodies, and win back from them his lost wife.
He is to recover her on a condition, which is, that he never casts a look on her on their return to earth;for if he fails in this, Euridice will be forever lost to him.
Taking his lyre and casque Orfeo promises obedience, and with new hope sallies forth on his mission. The second act represents the gates of Erebus, from which flames arise. Orfeo is surrounded by furies and demons, who try to frighten him; but he, nothing daunted, mollifies them by his sweet strains and they set free the passage to Elysium, where Orfeo has to win the happy shadows. He beholds Euridice among them, veiled ; the happy shadows readily surrender her to him, escorting the pair to the gates of their happy vale.
The third act beholds the spouses on their way back to earth. Orfeo holds Euridice by the hand, drawing the reluctant wife on, but without raising his eyes to her face; on and on through the winding and obscure paths which lead out of the infernal regions. Not-withstanding his protestations of love and his urgent demands to her to follow him, Euridice never ceases to implore him to cast a single look on her, threatening him with her death should he not fulfill her wish. Orfeo, forbidden to tell her the reason of his strange behavior, long remains deaf to her cruel complaints, but at last he yields and looks back, only to see her expire under his gaze. Overwhelmed by grief and despair Orfeo draws his sword to destroy himself, when Amor appears and stays the fatal stroke.
In pity for Orfeo’s love and constancy he reanimates Euridice (contrary, however, to the letter of the Greek tragedy), and the act closes with a beautiful chorus sting in Amor’s praise.