Orpheus The Continued Love Affair Classical Music History Research Paper

1624 words - 7 pages

Orpheus - The Continued Love Affair
Kathryn M. Vickous
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 

This paper explores the opera world’s fascination with the Greek myth Orpheus. To this date,
there have been seventy-one operas, the first originating in the 16th century in 1600 and the last
in the 21st century in 2015. In fact, because there have been so many operas depicting his story,
Orpheus has his own genre - Orphean operas. It is this paper’s ambition to attempt to uncover the
truth as to why the tale of Orpheus has transfixed the musical world after all this time.
Orpheus - The Continued Love Affair
There are countless versions of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, not only in the
literature of the world, but in the music of the world as well. The appeal of a story about a mortal
being brought back from death is obvious. However, the myth of Orpheus puts an interesting
twist on the fantasy of life after death. When his wife, Eurydice, is fatally bitten by a poisonous
snake Orpheus, a poet and singer, dares to travel to the underworld to reclaim her. Facing the
ruler of the underworld, he demands her release, and Hades gives in. There are more than
seventy known operatic versions of the tale, from the first work that can properly be called an
opera, Peri's Euridice (1600), and the first truly great opera, Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607), to the
most recent Orpheus (2015). What is it that makes this story so fascinating to the musical world?
The answer to the aforementioned question is what this paper is seeking to discover.
The Myth Behind the Legend
Orpheus was widely known as the most talented music player of the age. It is said that he
was the son of Apollo, the god of music, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. From the two of
which he took his extreme talent in music and verse. Gifted with a most sublime voice, Orpheus
could charm everyone who heard him. When he was given a lyre as a young boy, he had it
mastered in no time at all. Legend says that no god, mortal, or object could resist his music. Even
the rocks and trees would uproot themselves to be close to him.
Love at First Song
In his early years, Orpheus spent much of his time perfecting his music and poetry. His
talent had eclipsed the fame and respect his music had garnered him. His superb lyre playing and
euphonious voice accumulated him audiences from near and far. It was at one of these events
that his eyes first fell on a wood nymph named Eurydice. A powerful spell was woven that day
for both Eurydice and Orpheus both became enchanted with each other - Eurydice by his music
and Orpheus by her beauty. The two soon fell madly in love and became unable to spend a single
moment apart. After a while, the decided to get married.
The Snake Bite
Their wedding day was a...

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