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Laura Recaps: Orfeo ed Euridice: Part II

<< Back to part one

The title card says we're in "The Elysian Fields", which are blue, like the police station on Joan of Arcadia. But Joe Montegna is nowhere to be found among the vaguely out-of-it looking blue and gold denizens. However, is that naked butt I see? Euridice is standing there as some Elysian handmaidens sloooooowly put a dress on her. Finally, Euridice turns around and sings a little (well, long) song about how it's nice to be in heaven. Well, she seems happy enough. One of the female chorus member's breasts is exposed through the entire song. That's how you can tell it's heaven.

          Everyone suddenly leaves and the stage darkens. Curfew? Orfeo wanders in and sings what amounts to "It's nice here." He adds, "But not for me, 'cuz I won't be happy till I find my loverbunny." (I may be paraphrasing.) See, that would have been nice coming from Euridice. The blue and gold people come out again and lead a blindfolded Euridice to Orfeo. "Here's your wife," they (basically) say. Everyone dances around slowly. I guess one thing common to all feature-length tellings of the Orpheus story is extensive filler. Finally Orfeo takes Euridice's hand and leads her away, back to her.

          Okay, rock; we've made it to Act III. The title card reads "A Dark Cavern." Orfeo is still leading Euridice away, a few steps ahead of her, and facing forward. Euridice is shooting off questions: "What's going on? Are you dead? Am I dead? Where we goin', Thunder?" Orfeo calls her "beloved object of my faithful love," like, we get it, beloved lovers loving love, and tells her that neither of them is dead (anymore). So I guess they can talk to each other. This was no "what I wish I could say to her" soliloquy, either, because Euridice responds with what amounts to "Not dead anymore? Woot!" She tries to catch up with Orfeo and look at her, but Orfeo covers his eyes and turns away with great drama.

          And here's where, not five minutes after being reunited, they start to bicker. Euridice demands that Orfeo look at her; Orfeo won't. Euridice demands to know why; Orfeo won't tell her. Was this part of the deal? I thought they couldn't talk at all, but I guess Orfeo somehow interpreted this as "You can talk, as long as you don't talk about the fact that you're not looking at her." This is right, apparently, since Euridice's not dead yet; she's still standing here pouting and sulking like a child.

          Orfeo's all "Let's get a move on," but Euridice plants her feet and bitches and moans about how Orfeo's not looking at her means that he doesn't love her anymore. "Yeah, right. I risked the fires of hell just to give you the cold shoulder. Idiot," I want Orfeo to say. Instead, he just moans nervously that they really ought to hurry up. Euridice responds by throwing herself on the floor and moaning "You don't love me anymore!" Drama queen. Orfeo sits down wearily and sings (and this is the real translation from the subtitles), "Another torment. Help me, Oh heaven!" I get the impression Orfeo says this a lot when he's around Eurydice. The whole fight plays out like a slice of life for these two.

          Can't Orfeo just be like, "Listen, honey, I can't look at you, and I can't tell you why, but you'll just have to trust that I love you, that I'm here to rescue you [though Janet Baker is a little short for a storm trooper], and that everything's going to be okay when we get to the surface--just follow me." ? But neither one of them can keep their cool, and the whole thing escalates. By the end of the fight, they're both lying on the ground moaning. Euridice's all "Being dead would be better than life if you don't love me, which you obviously don't, or you'd look at me!" and Orfeo's all "Cruel torture! I can't! Please, just be quiet and let's go! Waaah!" Jesus.

          Finally, Orfeo stands up and spreads his arms, looking for all the world like he's going to belt out "I Gotta Crow," but instead he's all "Okay, you asked for it, bitch!" (Okay, maybe he's more like "What torment! I can resist no more!") He turns to Euridice, finally, and they hug; but Euridice faints dead away in his arms, like, immediately. Orfeo is all "Ohhhhh shit." (Ok, okay. "What have I done? Where has love's frenzy driven me?" But my way is more concise.)

          Orfeo sits there on the stage cradling Euridice's body, which is really quite pathetic and tragic-looking, and singing his grief. Again. "What will I do without Euridice?" Well, I imagine you'll bicker a lot less. Seriously. Orfeo and Euridice are believable as a couple, and I appreciate that-- but did they have to make them such an annoying couple?

          Unable to face the prospect of living without Euridice to make his decisions and boss him around, Orfeo pulls out an almost comically tiny knife, ready to kill himself. Good luck with that. He'd have better luck beaning himself with the chocolate lyre.

          But before he can do anything drastic, Big Pink Amor floats down on her little powderpuff. She's basically like "You seem like a nice guy, so I'll give your wife back." And Euridice starts to rise. What? Another chance? This isn't canon. Unless she dies AGAIN, which would just be cruel. But no, it looks like Euridice is going to survive this time. Huh. So what was all that "travels through the underworld" stuff? Maybe Amor decided to take pity on Orfeo because he would have gotten through the cavern if Euridice hadn't been so damn irritating.

          New title card! "The Temple of Love." The same chorus from Euridice's grave, some of them now wearing doofy hats, sings and dances about how great love is while Orfeo and Euridice gaze longingly at each other and dance together. Orfeo and Euridice do a weird dance where they clamp elbows with each other again and again and again. Also, THIS SCENE WILL NEVER END.

          I think Orfeo got a new lyre, but then I realize that Euridice is just exclaiming over the same gold one. Self-centered Euridice only just now got around to noticing the giant shiny thing Orfeo's been holding all this time. Her admiring is cut short as Orfeo gives the lyre back to Amor. Okay. A gold guy who I guess is Apollo descends from the heavens, slooooowly. He, Amor, Orfeo, and Euridice do this weird dance where they throw around what appears to be toilet paper. Orfeo and Euridice wrap themselves in toilet paper and hug. Then they give the toilet paper to the villagers, but nobody heeds my entreaties to make a mummy. Orfeo and Euridice really look like they're going to kiss--but they don't. Sigh. They walk slowly, slowly into the sunset. And that-- finally, finally--is the end.

Orfeo and L'Orfea

          "Orfeo ed Euridice" is the second Orpheus-themed opera we've watched for class. The first was "L'Orfea", which I didn't enjoy nearly as much as this goofy seventies cheez-fest. At first, I just thought it was because every scene was long and drawn out with lots of singing and slow walking around and nothing really ever seemed to HAPPEN. But I know now that that can't possibly be the only reason.

          I think the story really bugged, because Orpheus and Eurydice didn't endear themselves to me at all. They seemed to have no discernable positive traits; they didn't even seem to like each other. Orpheus was whiny, paunchy, and irritating. He was played by a man too old for the part, and the character came off as an immature and unappealing 40-something who ought to have known better.

          In "Orfeo ed Euridice," you didn't hear much about the relationship pre-death, so you could just assume that it was great. But "L'Orfea" started on Orpheus and Eurydice's wedding day, so there was a lot more time to see what the "happy" part of the relationship was like. And it didn't seem that great. I got the impression from the wording and body language that their history was thus: Orpheus, a paunchy, gloomy, self-centered musician, decides that he loves Eurydice upon seeing her for no real reason other than that she's pretty and he wants to fall in love. He continually proposes to her until eventually he wears her down and she accepts. He's a depressive sort but he has this idea that being in love with her will solve his many problems. She, of course, dies accidentally and he decides he can't live without her. At this point, in "Orfeo and Euridice," I bought it. I was like "This is not likely to end well, but you love that girl, so go for it." But in "L'Orfea," I was just like, "Dude, let her rest in peace."

          So I wasn't too broken up when Orpheus showed himself to be too lame to follow the ONE RULE laid forth by him (Eurydice didn't speak to him in this version, just followed him docilely, so it was his own damn fault that he couldn't wait until he got out of the cavern to take a peek at the goods). Orpheus reverted back to his old gloom and doom self, which, because I didn't buy their romance, seemed like a personal characteristic rather than a reaction to a tragedy. Apollo, Orpheus's dad, came down from the heavens on some kind of stage contraption and basically said "Buck up kid, you can come live with me in the heavens if you want," and Orpheus was all, "Eurydi-who?"

          It could be argued that the happy ending in "Orfeo ed Euridice" is a cop-out, but it's sweet and Orfeo and Euridice really seem happy together; even if you suspect that on the way home from the temple of love they're going to start arguing and they'll both say things they don't mean but Orfeo's going break first and he's going to plead all "Let's not go to bed mad," and Euridice's probably never going to stop talking about how he's totally in love with that one shepherd girl he sort of glanced at during the dance. So maybe they're not as perfect for each other as they like to imagine, in their happy moments; but you at least get the impression that they do love each other more or less equally, for all their faults and imbalance of power in the relationship and poor communication skills and melodrama and co-dependence and naivité. And hey, maybe, just maybe, things will work out.

          Or maybe they'll drive each other nuts and eventually break up. But they're both happy now, and maybe that's worth the whole cross-dimensional, chocolate-lyre-powered, insane-monkey-addled adventure.


- Laura