Orpheus Musings (I)

Having solved a puzzle this morning – concerning Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini’s production of L’Euridice in 1600 – I started to wonder how many operas since then were based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and the wonderful internets gave me an answer in the form of this page. Now all I have to do is listen to all of these and make some glorious conclusions about the Orphean leitmotifs in philosophy. Something along the lines of Gary Tomlinson’s excellent Metaphysical Song but funnier and with pictures…

Just quickly glancing at the list, it’s clear that the story was very popular. If I recall correctly though, there are two versions of the end in the operatic tradition: the traditional sad ending (Eurydice is gone forever, Orpheus is bummed out, goes mad) and the happy ending (Apollo comes and saves the day).

The philosophical significance of the story is easy to grasp, or so it seems. Plato complained that Orpheus was a coward, or I should say, The Speech of Phaedrus in Symposium mentioned that Orpheus was a coward – regular heroes die for their love, not try to sneak into Hades with a nice tune. According to this version, Orpheus does not get to see his wife, just an angry image: Continue reading