Orphée and his wife Eurydice have grown apart. Orphée’s love of his violin, and of a local shepherd girl, have pulled him away from his wife, and she has sought companionship with the young Aristée, a shepherd who lives next door. However, all is not as it seems. Aristée is actually Pluton, the god of the underworld, in disguise. He has plans to take Eurydice back to the underworld to be his wife, and when she gets bitten by a snake he fakes her death and takes her with him. Orphée rejoices that he is rid of Eurydice, until L’Opinion Publique puts him straight; it is not appropriate to be happy that his wife has been stolen by the god of the underworld, he must go to the underworld to fetch her back.
Meanwhile, the gods on Olympus hear that a mortal woman has been stolen from her husband by a god, and all blame Jupiter. To set the story straight, and with every intention of ensuring that husband and wife are reunited, he takes all of the gods on a day trip to the underworld, where he is transformed into a fly to find and rescue Eurydice. She has quite forgotten about her husband, and agrees to escape with Jupiter, until Pluton spoils their plans. Jupiter lets Eurydice return to Earth with her husband, with one condition: he must not look back at her on their journey out. As they walk, Jupiter sends a lightning bolt at Orphée, and he turns around. Instantly Eurydice disappears. Jupiter has decided neither he nor Pluton can have her, and he transforms Eurydice into a bacchante.
Made infamous by it’s risque Galop Infernal, more commonly known as Offenbach’s Can-can’, this hilarious farce loosely disguises an important satirical commentary on French society. It remains popular with audiences today for its excellent melodies, and timeless humor.
Orphée aux Enfers guide sections