Orphée aux enfers (‘Orpheus in the Underworld’)
- Andrew Lamb
(‘Orpheus in the Underworld’)
Opéra bouffon in two acts by Jacques Offenbach to a libretto by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy after classical mythology; Paris, Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens (Salle Choiseul), 21 October 1858 (revised version, as an opéra-féerie in four acts, Paris, Théâtre de la Gaîté, 7 February 1874).
Orphée aux enfers marked a significant advance for Offenbach in 1858. From being restricted by the terms of his licence to producing short works for just a few performers, he was now permitted to use larger casts and chorus and to offer his audiences a full-length work for the first time. Though the idea of parodying Greek mythology (see Orpheus) was not new, the vehemence with which Offenbach did so, not least by turning a stately minuet into a cancan, caused a good deal of critical comment. However, this merely served to increase interest in the work and ensure its overwhelming success in Paris. In turn this led to international celebrity on an enlarged scale and substantially accelerated the pace of acceptance of his works abroad. ...