1. L'Orfeo, free translation of the libretto
2. Orfevs (video)
3. The story of Orpheus (video)
4. Musical Croqui - The Model Model
5. Interview with Poul Høxbro
1. L’ORFEO in my own words, based on the Libretto/Favola by Alessandro Striggio
The complete libretto and literal translation can be found here.
I am the narrator. The Voice. I come to You from the inside of myself.
I will tell you about Orfeo - the half-god. Orfeo - the half-human.
He who loved Euridice - the tree nymph who died.
He who conquered death with his music.
He who lost everything.
The words are mine, and maybe they will tell you more about me than about Orfeo - perhaps I will expose myself to you (perhaps you will see and hear more than you wish). But what I say is one thing, and what you choose to hear is another.
My memories, my words, my voices will meet yours. They will resonate with the cords within you. You will listen, and the words will echo in you.
I will listen to myself while I sing and impersonate all of these characters - the mortal humans and the gods.
We will be entangled in each other and create a thousand new stories.
Act One - In the forest.
In which we hear about Orfeo's happiness, after having been unhappy. He has met Euridice. They have met, fallen in love, and are now getting married. The love between them is all-consuming.
At first, there was Nothingness. Emptiness. Loneliness.
He, who was named Orfeo, didn't see or feel anything but his own abandonment.
He was heavy with grief, as was everyone who heard his singing. You see, when Orfeo was happy, his songs were full joy, and everyone who heard them felt Orfeo's happiness as if it was their own. But, when Orfeo was unhappy, his voice was like tears that filled our hearts with crying. Even the cold stones were moved. Even the mountains cried.
His lament imbued the forest, and we lamented with him.
She, who was named Euridice, did not hear his sad songs. She did not lament with him. She was dancing with the trees, as the trees were her sisters (she was a tree). Her voice was laughter. She was the happiness Orfeo missed in his own heart.
So there, in Orfeo's Nothingness, he saw Euridice, and she saw him.
Nothing became Everything. They fell in love -they became Love.
Euridice, my world was empty until you came. Now, you are, you are mine, now there is Us.
Orfeo, I am no longer my own. I am only yours, and my love is yours.
My heart is yours. The joy in my heart is yours.
Orfeo and Euridice. The half-god and the young girl, the nymph.
Hearts beating with oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline…
They were Everything, and they were Nothing.
But she walks away. Just for a little while. She will come back, of course.
Someone has to leave because someone always has to go.
She will come back.
In which Orfeo's happiness turns to misery
Euridice has left Orfeo (she will come back!). Orfeo is dancing with his friends. Those who once carried his grief is now singing his joy.
Do you remember how miserable I was?
Now, that unhappiness makes my happiness shine even more.
Euridice sees me, and I exist! Euridice sees me, and I live.
All is joy! The future is happy and will continue forever and ever. It’s now. It’s dancing, music, singing. Love has infused the world.
Orfeo can’t stop singing and laughing.
But, a shadow falls over the forest, a shadow of a young woman. We can sense her pale cheeks and black eyes. It is Silvia, Euridice’s friend. Why is she coming all by her self?
Ahi…Ah cruel….Ah bitter…. Cruel fate, bitter heaven, ah unjust stars… Cruel, cruel, cruel.
Orfeo, I have to say what I do not what to say. I am going to murder your happiness with my words.
Your beautiful Euridice…
She was walking barefoot in the grass… to gather flowers for her hair, when (we didn’t see it) a snake (we couldn’t do anything) bit her foot.
Her face turned white, the light in her eyes faded. She fell unto the ground.
We did everything we could (we gave her the water, we prayed), but nothing helped.
I held her in my arms. Her gaze was empty.
Orfeo, she said your name.
Orfeo. And then…
You died? You were my life, and now you are dead?
I keep on living?
I keep on breathing?
You have left, and I have to remain?
No! No, I will go to where you are, and I will get you back.
If my music is truly magical, I will do what no-one has never before: I will go to the kingdom where you are, and I will get you back! If I can’t, I will stay there forever.
In which Orfeo descends to the Underworld.
Orfeo left the woods, the light, the sun, the wind, and the birds.
His goal was the Underworld - Hades - and Euridice. Death.
We carry the path to our own death in our hearts. Every step we take, from the second we are born, is leading us towards it. Step by step. Heartbeat by heartbeat. We know this.
But the path to someone else’s death is not for us to walk. We cannot find it. The entry to Euridice’s death was eternally closed as soon as she had entered it. So, you understand, Orfeo shouldn’t be able to walk that way. But he sings and plays, and the music, which is the most vulnerable you could ever hear, leads him down, down, down…into a silent nothingness, blind darkness.
Only Hope walks with him.
When they had gone to the deepest of depths, he stood by the Styx - the river was now the only thing between him and the Plutone’s mighty kingdom of shadows. The water in Styx is black, colored by the anxiety from the dead who hasn’t yet found peace.
Now, we are here, in the darkness. The marshes of Hades is before us. Here is Charonte, the ferryman who guides the souls over the river.
Now, you have only yourself and your music.
I will leave you here because it is written on this gate:
Leave all hope, you who enter.
And Orfeo is all alone.
No, not all alone. Caronte is there.
The Ferryman is a man with the eternity on his shoulders and adamant darkness in his eyes. He hasn’t slept for thousands of years. Always on guard.
Who are you, you fool, who comes here, to this river? It is not permitted for living souls to be here, and it is not allowed for you to cross the river in my boat.
You cannot be with the dead! Go!
Orfeo sang, and the song sounded as if it was the last song and the first song in the universe. All the songs he had ever sung, all the songs ever sung by anyone. The strangest song.
Powerful spirit and terrifying god… No, I am not living, my heart is no longer with me.
I am Orfeo - following Euridice.
Only the look from her eyes can give me my life back.
And you, you are the only one who can help me.
So, you are trying to charm my heart with your airs and your tears, you poor singer, but compassion does not reside in my soul.
Orfeo believes it is over. His magical powers have abandoned him!
But, no, that is not true. Caronte is affected. The tense muscles, the eyes always on guard, the heart that won’t stop beating and beating and beating, the vigilant mind are suddenly starting let go. The old man who hasn’t slept in a thousand years is melting into a rest. He sleeps.
Orfeo understands that the sleep of Charonte is of a magical kind, and he will quickly wake up if the music stops. So Orfeo climbs into the boat, takes the rod and sings, and sings, and sings.
”Give me back my love, you gods of Hell.”
In which Orfeo pleads to the King and Queen of the Underworld - Proserpina, and Plutone.
Pluton and Proserpina, King and Queen of Hades, sitting on their thrones, watching over the mighty kingdom of shadows and wandering spirits - Death.
She was a nymph, dancing barefoot with the winds.
He saw her, he wanted her, he took her.
And here, in the Underworld, she is The Queen.
She hears Orfeo. His song echoes through the stone pillars. Echoes through her bones.
Her body understands the beautiful mourning lament. Her heart…is melting.
My lord, my master, have you heard him? He is calling for his love, for Euridice.
Your powers can Help him. Please, let Her go back.
I promise you I will make you love me even more.
Pluton looked at his wife, and for a moment, he felt the purest love. The kind of love that is not governed by a desire to own, but for the one, you love to be happy and free. He remembers why he wanted her to be with him. He remembered the first time he saw her. He remembered how she laughed and danced.
I have also been moved by his music. My heart is also weakening. Orfeo will have his Euridice back! But, he is not allowed to turn around and look for her until they are both up in the living world. If he does, Euridice will be lost. Forever.
How can thank you, my husband, and master? I bless the day when I lost the sun, for that day I won you.
Thank me by no longer desire the sun.
Thank me by staying in our marital bed.
Orfeo was no longer a half-god – He was God. He was the one who had conquered death with the power of his music. He had won his Euridice back.
Now, all they had to do was to go up, up, up to the woods, the light, the sun, the wind, and the birds to live happily ever after. Just this walk. Just look ahead. Just walk up, up to life. They went up, up, up, and the darkness got lighter and more tender with every step.
While they are walking, Orpheus sings. He sings about his music, and he sings songs about life, about the woods, the sun, the heaven, the winds, and the birds. About love.
Now they are almost up… Orfeo can practically see the sky. He sees a bird, a white bird. It flies as if it were life itself. Death is so far, far away now.
But he suddenly doubts Euridice’s presence. Is she really there? How can he be sure?
How can he believe that she has not been taken by one of Plutons guards?
What if she is no longer there? Didn’t he hear a sound?
The panic is overwhelming, and the doubt is gripping his whole existence.
She is what makes him being alive.
Without her, he is no one.
Without her, his voice is a whisper.
He turns around.
And there she is. Standing there with her dark hair. She is so beautiful. So pale.
The sweetness of seeing you. And the bitterness.
It was your love that made you lose me. And I lost my life.
And she disappears into the shadows.
She melts into the Nothingness, a memory, and Orfeo is left alone with nothing.
He cannot follow her now. All the doors are locked. His music has lost its powers.
He turned around. He walks up alone.
A short act in which Orfeo is back in the forest, now full of bitterness, sadness, and rage.
Euridice, you were the only one. If not, you - no one.
Other women disgust me.
I’d rather die than fall in love with another.
We will leave Orfeo here. The story of Orpheus and Euridice is over.
The myth of Orfeo has many endings. In one, he is beaten to death by furious Bacchantes. In another, his father, Apollo, comes to bring him up to heaven, to the sun and the stars.
We will end the story here.
Let us leave Orfeo alone. The half-god who could defeat death, tame beasts and make people’s souls more significant and more important, was also just a human being.