23 May Orpheus and Eurydice
Librettist: André Alexis
Commissioner: Toronto Masque Theatre (Artistic Director Larry Beckwith) with the assistance of The Laidlaw Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: 13 – 14 May 2004, Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto, Ontario
Other productions: May 2011, Enwave Theatre, Toronto, Ontario
Performers: 8 voices (3 sopranos, alto, 2 tenors, baritone, bass) and 9 early instruments A415 (2 recorders, 2 violins, 2 viola da gambas, harpsichord/chamber organ, theorbo/baroque guitar, cello). May also be performed on early or modern instruments at A440.
Duration: 35 minutes
Seeking his wife Eurydice in the underworld, Orpheus implores Hades to let him bring her back to life. Hades gives in reluctantly, on condition that Orpheus not look back at Eurydice while she is being led back to earth. The reunited couple begin their journey back. Hades praises the peacefulness of the underworld over the turbulence of life on earth, but is upbraided by his wife Proserpine, who sympathizes with the living.
The couple sing a love duet while they journey toward light, past the tortured souls of the underworld. They meet a shepherd and his flock who perished when the shepherd, dreaming of his girlfriend, walked off a cliff, followed by his sheep. The shepherd recognizes and praises Orpheus, then tells him his story, which his sheep mock bitterly. As the couple take their leave of the shepherd, the opera ends with a hopeful chorus.
[Orpheus and Eurydice] is one of the most beautiful new operas to be written recently, delivering inventive instrumentations and rhythms for recitatives while bowing to gorgeous tonal echoes of centuries past in arias and choruses. Rolfe’s final chorus and the duet between Eurydice and Orpheus deserve to be heard again and again.
– John Terauds, The Toronto Star, 14 May 2004