Teacher Resources for Orphée et Eurydice

Welcome to Lyric Unlimited’s Teachers Resources for Orphée et Eurydice. This is your all-access pass to the world of opera and your insider’s guide to Lyric’s incredible performances. Scroll down to access the following resources to help you prepare your students for your trip to Lyric:

It is our sincere hope you enjoy the performance, and we look forward to seeing you and your students at the opera!

Opera Prep Class - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Opera Prep ClassCost: $175 per 45-minute presentation

Request a Lyric teaching artist to visit your classroom and engage your students with the important themes, musical highlights, and production elements of the opera.

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Teacher Guide

Information and activities to help you prepare students for the performance.

Teacher Guide - Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Opera Overview

This GoogleSlides presentation covers essential information your students need to know about the opera. For best results, please view the Opera Overview full screen.

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Musical Highlights

Act I, Scene 2 - Objet de mon amour (Object of my love)
Sung by Orphée.
Orphée et Eurydice features a lot of recitative (re-CHE-sih-teev) which is talk singing in opera that conveys plot information. This excerpt is Orphée’s first aria in the opera (and it’s in not even in the first scene!) Orphée is mourning the loss of his beloved wife, Eurydice.

Things to listen for:

     • Every line starts high and descends downward like a scale. This is foreshadowing for Orphée’s descent into the underworld. What else could the direction of this phrase indicate?
     • After the line (translated in English) “and when the day is gone”, the orchestra echoes Orphée’s melody very softly. Why might Gluck have chosen to have the orchestra do this?

Act II, Scene 1 - Quel-est l'audacieux (What audacious man)
Sung by the chorus.

Upon arrival in the underworld Orphée is met by a chorus of spirits called Furies. The spirits are unpleasant and do not like Orphée’s presence.

Things to listen for:

     • The woodwinds, brass and low strings are playing the same notes that the chorus is singing. This gives the chorus an “other worldly” characteristic.
     • In the second verse, the strings break from their repeated rhythmic pattern to play measures with three quarter notes. At these moments the orchestra is playing the "barks" of Cerberus, the three headed dog that guards the underworld.

Act II, Scene 2 - Ballet des Ombres Heureuses (The Dance of the Blessed Spirits)
Performed by the orchestra.

Orphée is granted entry by the Furies after he sings to them. As he proceeds deeper into the underworld, he arrives at the Elysian Fields and is graced by the blessed spirits. This instrumental ballet numbers features a prominent flute solo.

Things to listen for:

     • At the beginning of this piece the melody is in the flutes. In the second section the melody shifts to the violins.
     • Compare “Quel-est l'audacieux,“ and “Ballet des Ombres Heureuses.” They both concern the underworld. How are the two pieces similar? What are their differences?

Act III, Scene 1 - Fortune ennemie! (Oh! Unkind fortune)
Sung by Eurydice.

As part of the bargain Orphée made with Amour, he cannot look at Eurydice until they have left the underworld completely. Eurydice is not aware of this arrangement. She feels that Orphée is ignoring her and no longer loves her. This aria is sung in anguish and anger.

Things to listen for:

     • This aria features repeated notes and rhythms in the strings, similar to “Quel-est l'audacieux.” Why might Gluck have used a similar style for the two pieces?
     • In this aria, Eurydice’s lines are repeated, but with each statement there is a variation on the melody. Also, the tempo becomes very slow in the middle. The repetition indicates how serious she feels about what she is saying. The variations of the melody show how confusing and emotional the situation is.

Act III, Final Scene - L'Amour triomphe (Love triumphs)
Sung by Eurydice followed by the chorus.

Traditionally the myth of Orpheus ends on a somber note, but Gluck’s Orphee et Eurydice ends triumphantly. Orphée and Eurydice are reunited and alive. This excerpt begins with Eurydice’s declaration of joy followed by the full chorus. The chorus performs the last sung music in the opera, but it is not the finale. The opera concludes with ballet.

Things to listen for:

     • Eurydice here is much different than in “Fortune ennemie.” Here her melody is slower and more song-like. Each line she sings is related to the one before it. The previous example showed erratic confusion, this excerpt shows contentment and security.
     • The end of the opera is the only joyful choral moment. Every other piece that features the chorus is either mournful or angry. This is a celebration of love. What are some aspects of this excerpt that demonstrate excitement and joy?

Croft, Delunsch; Les Musiciens du Louvre, cond. Minkowski. 

Music for Orphée et Eurydice furnished through an arrangement with Universal Music Group.

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Production Videos

Sneak peaks and behind the scenes footage of this Lyric production.

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Historical and Cultural Timeline

Learn more about this opera and events in the world at the time it was written.


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Composer Biography

Performances for Students - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald Gluckb. July 1714; d. November 15, 1787

Christoph Willibald Gluck [KREE-stawff VIH-lee-bahld GLOOK] was a composer of Italian and French opera in the early classical period. He was born in what is now Germany and raised in Bohemia (the present-day Czech Republic). Gluck gained prominence at the Habsburg court at Vienna, where he brought about the practical reform of opera.

During Gluck’s time, opera was quickly evolving. Opera buffa (Italian comic opera) had become unfunny with stereotype characters. In opera seria (Italian serious opera), the content was uninteresting. In both genres, singers would decorate the vocal lines so much that audiences could no longer recognize the original melody.

Gluck wanted opera to return to its origins, focusing on human drama and making words and music of equal importance. He accomplished this with operas such as Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste.

The popularity of French opera encouraged Gluck to move to Paris in November 1773. There he fused the traditions of Italian opera and the French national genre into a new style of opera. In 1774, he revised the Italian Orfeo ed Euridice into the French Orphée et Eurydice. The earlier version featured a castrato singer as Orfeo. A castrato was is a type of classical male singing voice that was similar to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto. Castrato had gone out of fashion, so Gluck rewrote the part for a high tenor, or haute contre. This French version also included more ballet, which Parisian operagoers preferred and expected.

Though he was extremely popular, Gluck's mastery of the Parisian operatic scene was never absolute. After the poor reception of his opera Echo et Narcisse, he left Paris in disgust and returned to Vienna. On November 15, 1787, Gluck suffered a stroke and died a few hours later, aged 73.

Gluck's musical legacy includes 35 complete full-length operas, shorter operas and operatic introductions, and numerous ballets and instrumental works. His reforms influenced Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, particularly his opera Idomeneo (1781). Gluck left behind many disciples in Paris, who dominated the French stage, including Salieri and Cherubini. Gluck's greatest French admirer was Hector Berlioz, whose epic Les Troyens is seen as the culmination of the Gluckian tradition.

Though Gluck wrote no operas in German, his operatic reforms influenced the German school of opera, particularly Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner, whose concept of music drama was not so far removed from Gluck's own.

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Behind the Scenes

A series of articles on the production, rehearsal, and performance process that happens behind the scenes at Lyric.

Sets and Props

Tech Week

The Rehearsal Process

Costumes at Lyric

Running the Show
History of the Lyric Opera House

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