Euridice, Opera by Jacopo Peri
Teatro Goldoni invites you to a truly special performance that goes back to the origins of opera as a genre. Euridice by Jacopo Peri is the oldest musical drama whose original score still exists and only the second opera ever produced in recorded history. With a premiere at the opulent Palazzo Pitti in Florence on 6 October 1600, the wedding day of Maria de Medici and King Henry IV of France, the work seemed destined for greatness. Over four centuries later, Euridice continues its successful run. It is now coming back to life in its home city of Florence and brings the music and mythology of the past into our present day.
For the festive royal occasion, Peri and librettist Ottavio Rinuccini picked an appropriately epic love story: the mythological romantic union between the divinely talented singer Orfeo (Orpheus) and his beloved wife Euridice. Their legend is part of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and served as basis for Rinuccini’s emotional and impressive text. After Euridice suffers a fatal injury and passes away, her loving husband Orfeo takes the perilous journey into the Underworld to plead for her life with the gods themselves. Thanks to his talent and persuasive skill, Pluto grants Orfeo his wish, and the pair are free to return to the world of the living. While the mythical story does not have a happy ending, Peri and Rinuccini took some creative liberty and crafted an uplifting finale to their tale.
Some scholars find an intentional parallel between the great love story between Orfeo and Euridice and the real-life union of King Henry IV and Maria de Medici. Others point out that Henry was not nearly as dedicated a husband as his mythical counterpart. What remains undisputed is the unique musical and storytelling quality of Euridice. Peri created a unique vocal style that closely reflected the emotional charge of each character’s lines. Less impassioned parts are half-sung and half-spoken. In contrast, dramatic episodes shine with fully developed, powerful melodies and more complex accompaniment to emphasise their tension and impact. The result is a close blend of speech, music, drama and emotion that is a wonderful example of the origins of the operatic genre.