Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Monteverdi’

Storytelling Starters ~ Don’t look back!

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Music has such evocative power. On Tuesday, both sadness and joy were present in spades during the Proms performance in the Albert Hall of Monteverdi’s Orfeo.  Now regarded as one of the earliest operas, Orfeo tells the story of the marriage of Orpheus and his subsequent quest. Throughout it, you’re aware of Orpheus as the hero whose singing had such beauty, it was said, that it had the power to attract the wildest of beasts and even to move inanimate things.

Orpheus’ marriage:

GondolaFor all his other adventures, the high point of Orpheus’  life was his marriage to Eurydice. So ecstatically happy did she make him that he was cast into the uttermost depths of grief when, running away from a would-be lover, she was bitten by a snake and died from the poison. After her death, Orpheus became completely unable to imagine living without her. In his bereavement, he determined to do what had never previously been done by any living mortal: try and find a way into the darkness of the Underworld, there to plead either to be given  back his wife or, if his pleas failed,  to be allowed to stay there with her.

Orpheus’ quest:

Orpheus set off on his mission and found his way to the river Lethe, the border between the lands of the living and dead. There with his lyre and his singing, he managed to lull to sleep the boatman, Charon, who rows the souls of the dead across the river. After penetrating Hades, the world of the dead, Orpheus came into the presence of Pluto, its king, and his wife Persephone.  With all his power, he began to plead to be allowed to take Eurydice back to the land of the living. Eventually, he succeeded. Pluto granted she might go with him on the condition that, on the way, he must not once look back at her until she had come into the full light of the sun.

Well, we all know what happened – or at least, we should for it was the most heart-rendingly human thing. Just as he was about to emerge from the gloom of the Underworld, something made Orpheus turn. Was it a sudden noise? A moment of self-doubt? Was his wife really behind him? Whatever made him do it, he turned and as he did so saw the form of his beloved fade and dissolve into the shades of the Underworld. (more…)