Orfeo ed Euridice Libretto
English Translation

ACT ONE

A pleasant but secluded grove of laurel and cypress trees which encloses, in a clearing, the tomb of Eurydice on a small dais.

Overture

SCENE I
Orpheus and Chorus.

As the curtain rises to the sound of a mournful sinfonia, the stage is occupied by a group of shepherds and nymphs, followers of Orpheus, carrying wreaths of flowers and garlands of myrtle: while some of them burn incense, adorn the marble and strew flowers round the tomb, the others sing the following chorus, interrupted by the laments of Orpheus who, lying prostrate on a rock, from time to time passionately repeats the name of Eurydice.


Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! If around this funeral urn,
Eurydice, sweet spirit, you hover,

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
Hear the plaints, the laments, the sighs
which we mourners utter for you.

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
And hearken to your unhappy husband,
who, weeping,
calls you and makes moan.

ORPHEUS
Eurydice!

CHORUS
As when
the amorous dove
loses her dear companion.

Recitative

ORPHEUS
Enough, enough, my friends!
Your grief increases my own!
Scatter purple flowers,
place garlands on her tomb,
and leave me!
I would remain alone
among these dark and mournful shades
with the pitiless company of my misfortunes!

Ballet
Larghetto

Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! If around this funeral urn,
Eurydice, sweet spirit, you hover,
hear the plaints, the laments, the sighs
which we mourners utter for you.

At the end of the dance which follows, the Chorus leaves.

Aria

ORPHEUS
Thus do I call my love
when day shows itself
and when it disappears.
But ah! vain is my grief!
The idol of my heart
does not reply.

Recitative

Eurydice, Eurydice,
beloved shade, where are you?
Your husband weeps,
begs the gods for you
and asks for you among mortals,
yet scattered to the wind
are his tears
and his laments!

Aria

Thus do I seek my love
on these sad shores
where she died.
But to my grief
echo alone replies,
since it knew our love.

Recitative

Eurydice, Eurydice! Ah, that name
the seashore knows, and the woods
learnt from me!
In every valley
Eurydice resounds: on every tree
the wretched Orpheus has written:
Unhappy Orpheus,
Eurydice, my love,
dear Eurydice!

Aria

Thus do I mourn my love,
whether the sun gilds the day
or sinks into the waves.
The brook, taking pity on my plaints,
goes murmuring by
and answers me.

Recitative

Oh gods, cruel gods!
You, the pale inhabitant of Acheron and Avernus,
whose greedy hand was never stayed
by beauty or youth,
nor could keep it from death,
you stole from me my lovely Eurydice ?
oh cruel memory! ?
in the flower of her life.
I want her back from you, tyrannous gods!
I too have the courage, in the footsteps
of the most intrepid heroes,
to search for my wife,
my loved one, in your horror!


SCENE II
Amor and Orpheus

Recitative

AMOR
Love will assist you!
Orpheus, Jove has taken pity
on your grief.
It is granted you to pass
the sluggish waters of Lethe alive!
Go on your way to the shadowy abyss:
if with your singing you can placate the Furies,
the monsters, and pitiless death,
you can take back your beloved Eurydice
with you into the light of day.

ORPHEUS
But how? and when?
Can this be possible?
Explain!

AMOR
Have you courage enough
for this extreme trial?

ORPHEUS
You promise me Eurydice,
and you think I could be afraid?

AMOR
Then know on what conditions
you must complete the task.

ORPHEUS
Speak!

AMOR
Forbidden is the sight of Eurydice
until you are beyond the caves of the Styx!
And of this great prohibition you must not tell her!
Otherwise, you lose her again, and for ever;
and you will live unhappy,
a prey to your fierce desire!
Think on this: farewell!

Aria

AMOR
Restrain your glances,
refrain from words:
recall, if you suffer,
that you have to suffer
but a few moments more!

Do you not know
that sometimes lovers,
confused and trembling,
are blind to those they love,
and cannot speak?

Exit

Recitative

ORPHEUS
What said he? What did I hear?
That Eurydice will live
and I shall have her here?
And after all my torments,
in that moment,
torn by emotions,
I must not look at her,
not clasp her to my bosom!
Unhappy wife!
What will she say?
What will she think?

I foresee her impatience:
I understand my anguish.
At the mere thought
I feel my blood congeal,
my heart falter.
But I can! I will!
I am resolved! The greatest,
most intolerable of ills is to be deprived
of the only being my soul adores.
Be with me, ye gods! I accept your decree.

A clap of thunder and a flash of lightning. Exit Orpheus.


ACT TWO

A fearsome cavernous region beyond the river Cocytus, darkened from afar by gloomy smoke lit up by flames which envelops that whole dreaded abode.

SCENE I
Orpheus and Chorus

Ballet
Maestoso

Chorus

CHORUS
Who is this
who draws near to us
through the gloom of Erebus
in the footsteps of Hercules
and of Pirithous?

Ballet
Presto

Chorus

CHORUS
Who is this
who draws near to us
through the gloom of Erebus
in the footsteps of Hercules
and of Pirithous?

May the savage Eumenides
overwhelm him with horror,
and the howls of Cerberus
terrify him
if he is not a god.

They dance, whirling round Orpheus, to frighten him.

Ballet
Maestoso

ORPHEUS
Oh be merciful to me,
ye Furies, ye spectres, ye angry shades!

CHORUS
No! ? No! ? No!

ORPHEUS
May my cruel grief
at least earn your pity!

Chorus

CHORUS
Wretched youth,
what seek you? What is your purpose?
Here dwell naught
but grief and lamenting
in these fearful,
mournful regions!

Aria

ORPHEUS
A thousand pangs I too suffer,
like you, o troubled shades;
my hell lies within me,
in the depths of my heart.

Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! What unknown
feeling of pity
sweetly comes
to soften
our implacable rage?

Aria

ORPHEUS
Ah! You would be less harsh
to my weeping and lamenting
if for but a moment you could know
what it is to languish for love.

Chorus

CHORUS
Ah! What unknown
feeling of pity
sweetly comes
to soften
our implacable rage?

Let the gates creak
on their black hinges,
and let the victor,
safe and free,
be allowed to pass.

The Furies and monsters begin to withdraw, and as they disperse from the stage they repeat the last strophe of the chorus, which continues until they finally disappear. When they have gone, Orpheus advances into the infernal regions.


SCENE II
A delightful region with verdant groves and flowerfilled meadows, extensive shady spots, and rivers and streams flowing through it.
Orpheus, then Chorus of heroes and heroines, later Eurydice.


Ballet
Andante

Arioso

ORPHEUS
How clear the sky! How bright the sun!
How new and serene is this light!
What sweet, enchanting harmony
do the song of the birds,
the purling of the streams,
the murmur of the breezes
make together!
This is the abode
of the blessed heroes.
Here everything breathes peace and contentment,
but not for me.
If I cannot find my idol,
there is no hope for me!
Her sweet voice,
her loving glances, her tender smile,
are my only, my blissful Elysium!
But where can she be?
gazing round the scene
Let me ask this happy crowd
which comes to meet me.
advancing towards the Chorus
Where is Eurydice?

CHORUS
Eurydice is coming!

Chorus

CHORUS
Come to the realms of bliss,
great hero, tender husband,
rare example in any age!
Amor returns Eurydice to you;
already she revives and recovers
all the flower of her beauty.

Ballet
Andante

Recitative

ORPHEUS
Kind spirits,
ah! suffer my impatience in peace!
If you were lovers
you would know for yourselves
the burning desire
which torments me,
which goes with me everywhere.
Not even in this
peaceful haven
can I be happy
if I do not find my love.

CHORUS
Here is Eurydice!

Chorus

CHORUS
Return, fair one, to your husband,
from whom merciful heaven
wishes you never more to be parted.
Do not lament your lot,
for a husband so true
can be called another Elysium.

Eurydice is led by a Chorus of heroines towards Orpheus, who, without looking at her and acting with great urgency, takes her by the hand and quickly leads her away. Then follows the dance of heroes and heroines, and the Chorus resumes its chant, which should continue until Orpheus and Eurydice are in fact outside the Elysian Fields.


ACT THREE

A dark cave that forms a tortuous labyrinth, obstructed by boulders separated by rocks completely covered with brushwood and wild plants.

SCENE I
Orpheus and Eurydice

Recitative

ORPHEUS
to Eurydice, whom he leads by the hand, still without looking at her
Come, follow my steps,
dearest, only object
of my faithful love.

EURYDICE
Is it you? Am I deceived?
Am I dreaming or awake? Or delirious?

ORPHEUS
Beloved wife,
I am Orpheus,
and I am still alive.
I came to search for you even in Elysium.
Soon you will see our sky, our sun,
our dear world once again!

EURYDICE
You are alive? I am living?
How? But by what art, by what means?

ORPHEUS
I will tell you all,
but do not ask more now!
Hasten with me,
and banish vain importunate fear from your soul!
You are no longer a shade,
and I am not a shade.

EURYDICE
What do I hear? Can it be true?
Merciful gods,
what joy this is!
In my love's arms,
in the sweet nets
of Love and Hymen,
I will live life anew!

ORPHEUS
Yes, my dearest!
But let us delay no more
and follow our road.
So cruel has fortune been with me
that I hardly can believe that I possess you.
I can scarcely believe myself.

EURYDICE
Yet a soft pledge of my tender love
in the first moment that you find me again,
that I see you again,
annoys you, Orpheus!

ORPHEUS
Ah, that is not true, but ...
know that ... listen ...
(O cruel decree!)
Dear Eurydice,
quicken your steps!

EURYDICE
But what distresses you
in this happy moment?

ORPHEUS
(What can I say?
I foresaw it!
This is the moment of danger!)

EURYDICE
You do not embrace me? Nor speak?
At least look at me.
pulling him so as to make him look at her
Say, am I still beautiful
as I was once before?
Look, has the colour in my cheeks
perhaps faded?
Listen, has the splendour of my eyes
that you loved,
and you called sweet,
perhaps dimmed?

ORPHEUS
(The more I listen,
the less can I resist.
Courage, Orpheus!)
Come, my beloved Eurydice!
Now is not the time
for these tendernesses;
any delay is fatal for us.

EURYDICE
One single look!

ORPHEUS
To look at you would be disastrous.

EURYDICE
Ah, faithless one!
And this is your welcome!
You deny me a glance
when I should expect
from a true lover
and tender husband
embraces and kisses.

ORPHEUS
(Cruel torture!)
Do come, and be silent!

Seeing her close, he takes her hand and tries to lead her forward.

EURYDICE
angrily withdrawing her hand
I be silent! Did I have
to suffer this too?
Have you then forgone
memory, love,
faith and constancy?
For what was I awakened from my soft repose,
now that you have extinguished
those chaste torches
so dear to both Love and Hymen?
Reply, traitor!

ORPHEUS
Do come, and be silent!

Duet

ORPHEUS
Come, do your husband's bidding!

EURYDICE
No, death is dearer to me
than life with you!

ORPHEUS
Cruel one!

EURYDICE
Leave me in peace!

ORPHEUS
No, my life, I will always come after you
like a haunting shadow.

EURYDICE
Then why are you so harsh?

ORPHEUS
I well could die of sorrow,
but I will never tell you why.

EURYDICE, ORPHEUS
Great is your gift, ye gods!
I recognise it and am grateful!
But the grief which accompanies
your gift is past all bearing!

Recitative

EURYDICE
What life is this now
which I am about to lead?
And what fatal,
terrible secret
does Orpheus hide from me?
Why does he weep and grieve?
Ah, I am as yet unaccustomed
to the sorrows
suffered by the living!
Beneath so great a blow
my constancy fails,
the light fades
before my eyes;
my breath, locked in my bosom,
becomes laboured.
I tremble, I sway
and feel my heart wildly beating
with anguish and terror.

Aria

EURYDICE
Oh bitter moment!
Oh cruel fate!
To pass from death
to such sorrow!

I was used to the peace
of a tranquil oblivion;
but in these tempests
my heart is shattered.

I sway, I tremble ...

Recitative

ORPHEUS
Here is a new torment.

EURYDICE
Beloved husband,
will you leave me thus?
I am consumed with grief;
will you not console me?
Sorrow overwhelms my senses;
will you not aid me?
O stars, must I then die
once more
without an embrace from you,
without a farewell?

ORPHEUS
I can restrain myself no longer;
little by little
my reason is forsaking me.
Eurydice, I forget the decree
and myself! And …

He is about to turn but changes his mind.

EURYDICE
Orpheus, husband!
She falls to the stony ground.
Ah! ... I feel ... faint.

ORPHEUS
No, beloved! Listen!
about to turn and look at her
If you knew ...
ah, what am I doing?
How long
must I suffer
in this fearful hell?

EURYDICE
Dearest, remember ... me!

ORPHEUS
What torment!
Oh how my heart is torn!
I can resist no more ...
I rant ... I tremble ... I rave ...
Impulsively he turns and looks at her
Ah! My treasure!

EURYDICE
Merciful gods, what is happening?
I faint ... I die.

She dies.

ORPHEUS
Alas! What have I done?
Where has love's frenzy
driven me?
He rushes to her
Beloved Eurydice!
He shakes her
Eurydice! My wife!
Ah! She lives no longer,
I call her in vain!
Woe is me!
I have lost her again, and for ever.
Cruel decree! Oh death!
Oh bitter reminder!
There is no help,
no counsel for me!
I see only ? ah, cruel sight! -
the mournful signs
of my terrible plight.
Be satisfied, malevolent fate!
I am in despair!

Aria

ORPHEUS
What shall I do without Eurydice?
Where shall I go without my love?
Eurydice! Eurydice!
O heavens! Answer!
I am still true to you!
Eurydice! Eurydice!
Ah, there is no help,
no hope for me
either on earth nor in heaven!

Recitative

ORPHEUS
Ah! May grief end my life,
and for ever!
I am already upon the path
to black Avernus!
It is not a long road
which divides me from my love.
Yes, wait, dear shade of my beloved!
Wait, wait!
No, this time you shall not cross
Lethe's sluggish waters without your husband.

He tries to kill himself.


SCENE II
Amor and the previous

Recitative

AMOR
disarming him
Orpheus, what are you doing?

ORPHEUS
And who are you
who dare to restrain
my last fury,
which my plight justifies?

AMOR
Calm your anger, lay down your weapon,
and recognise Love!

ORPHEUS
Ah, is it you? I recognise you!
Grief clouded all my senses before.
Why have you come
in this bitter moment?
What do you want with me?

AMOR
To make you happy!
Orpheus, you have suffered enough for my glory;
I give you back your beloved Eurydice.
I seek no greater proof of your fidelity.
Here she is: she rises
to be reunited with you.

Eurydice rises as if waking from a deep sleep.

ORPHEUS
What do I see? Ye gods!
My wife!

He runs to embrace Eurydice.

EURYDICE
My husband!

ORPHEUS
Can I really embrace you?

EURYDICE
Can I clasp you to my bosom?

ORPHEUS
to Amor
My gratitude to you.

AMOR
Enough!
Come, happy lovers,
let us go back to earth:
return to enjoy it!

ORPHEUS
Oh happy day!
Oh merciful Amor!

EURYDICE
Oh joyful, blissful moment!

AMOR
My contentment compensates
for a thousand woes!


SCENE III
A magnificent temple dedicated to Love. Amor, Orpheus and Eurydice, preceded by a large number of shepherds and shepherdesses, who have come to celebrate Eurydice's return and begin a lively dance.

Ballet
Grazioso - Allegro - Andante - Allegro

Chorus

ORPHEUS, CHORUS
Let Amor triumph,
and all the world
serve the empire
of beauty!

Never was sweeter
the liberty
of her sometimes
bitter chains!

AMOR
The cruelty
of a tyrant
causes now despair,
now distress.

But the lover
forgets his pains
in the sweet moment
of mercy.

CHORUS
Let Amor triumph,
and all the world
serve the empire
of beauty!

EURYDICE
Jealousy consumes
and devours,
but faith
restores.

And that suspicion
which torments the heart
at last turns
to delight.

CHORUS
Let Amor triumph,
and all the world
serve the empire
of beauty!