Ludovic Halévy, Hector-Jonathan Crémieux
New Czech libretto: Šimon Caban
Musical preparation: Jan Chalupecký
Conductor: Jan Chalupecký, Richard Hein
Stage director: Michal Caban, Šimon Caban
Sets: Šimon Caban
Costumes: Simona Rybáková
Motion cooperation: Jan Kodet
Light-design: Pavel Dautovský
Chorus master: Adolf Melichar
Dramaturgy: Jitka Slavíková
State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) was referred to by Gioachino Rossini as the “Mozart of the Champs-Élysées”. An inspired artist, whose oeuvre encompasses dozens of vaudevilles and operettas, Offenbach provided a model of music theatre, reflecting by means of comedy and persiflage the issues of his time. The most acclaimed and popular were his operettas Orphée aux enfers and La belle Hélène, which against the background of the mythological stories wittily parodied the political and social situation during the time of the Second French Empire under Napoleon III. Orphée aux enfers, a brilliant comedy replete with gods, is set in Thebes, on Olympus and in the realm of Pluto, the ruler of the Underworld. Offenbach and the librettist Ludovic Halévy turned one of the best-known Greek myths inside out, transforming the couple into a dysfunctional family, with the two partners cheating on each other and Eurydice ultimately running away for a better life to join her lover, Pluto, in the Underworld. The widowed Orpheus does not rejoice for long, as Public Opinion compels him to go to Olympus in order to coax Eurydice back. The gods on Olympus rebel against their eventless and boring life. Eurydice too grows weary in the Underworld and so she willingly yields to a fly, the disguised Jupiter. And owing to Jupiter, Orpheus’ expedition to the Underworld fails and everything ends happily: Eurydice becomes a Bacchant on Olympus and Orpheus is finally free!
Offenbach’s operetta has attained immortality thanks to its forcible melodies, effulgent dialogues and, last but not least, the ”Infernal Galop” (the music for the “can-can”), which in the wake of the work’s premiere, on 21 October 1858 at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, went on to become a musical symbol of Paris. In Bohemia, Orphée aux enfers was first staged on 13 December 1863 at the Royal Czech Provisional Theatre in Prague. One and a half centuries since its premiere, the operetta remains a dashing, still topical, satire entertaining audiences worldwide.