The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is pleased to announce that it will present Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, from October 27th through November 19th of 2017.
Gilbert knew and liked the Offenbach operettas and stated that he hoped to emulate his work, but in a more distinctly British style. Gilbert was particularly adamant that his plots and staging would allow any Englishman to feel comfortable bringing his wife and daughters to see the shows. Offenbach’s libretti, after all, were the very definition of “too French!” Offenbach and his various librettists share Gilbert’s interest in topical satire and character-based humor. And both liked to see pretty girls on stage — though Gilbert’s chorus ladies were costumed rather more discreetly.
This hilarious, satiric retelling of the Orpheus legend opens on earth. Orpheus is annoyed with his wife, Eurydice, for cheating on him, as he has long cheated on her. When she is abducted by her lover, Pluto, and carried off to the underworld, Orpheus is delighted! He is forced, however, by Public Opinion to visit Mount Olympus to ask for the gods’ help in getting her back. Everyone ends up in the underworld, but while Pluto, Jupiter and Orpheus are all competing for Eurydice, the rest of gods are there for the party! As Eurydice sings, “Pleasure is for all time!”
Orpheus in the Underworld was first performed in 1858, and reached London in 1865. Its success was one of the inspirations for the creation of a home-grown English operetta, and for Richard D’Oyly Carte’s pairing of Gilbert and Sullivan to accomplish it. Orpheus in the Underworld was revised in 1874 to the full four-act version with chorus, and achieved even greater popularity. The English adaptation we are using was created for the 1985 English National Opera production.
Tickets can be purchased here.