Eurydice (Aucoin)

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Opera by Matthew Aucoin
Eurydice (22850265388).jpg
Eurydice with her father in the underworld (from a 2016 production of Ruhl's play)
LibrettistSarah Ruhl
Based onEurydice
by Sarah Ruhl
February 1, 2020 (2020-02-01)

Eurydice is an opera composed by Matthew Aucoin with a libretto by Sarah Ruhl based on her 2003 play of the same name. It had its premiere at the Los Angeles Opera on February 1, 2020, with Aucoin conducting. It was scheduled to receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere in November 2020, but was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [1] The director was Mary Zimmerman.

Composition history[edit]

The work was co-commissioned and co-produced by the Metropolitan Opera, and was mostly written while Aucoin was serving as the Los Angeles Opera's artist in residence. The Los Angeles Times noted that this production, "the world's newest major opera", is on the same subject as the world's oldest surviving opera, Jacopo Peri's Euridice, which premiered 420 years earlier in 1600.[2]


This opera retells the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice from Eurydice's point of view. Ruhl explained that "in the myth, we never hear from Eurydice – she is always a cipher. I'm interested in her voice, a voice that hasn't been heard before."[3]

Act 1[edit]

Orpheus, a musician, and Eurydice are playing on the beach. Orpheus proposes to Eurydice and she accepts. Her deceased father is seen in the underworld, writing a letter to her and wondering how to get it delivered. At her wedding, Eurydice steps outside and expresses a wish to see more interesting people. A mysterious "interesting man" appears and invites her to his apartment. After giving her champagne, he shows her the letter from her father. She tries to grab it but trips and falls down a long flight of stairs to her death in the underworld.

Act 2[edit]

The three Stones, a kind of Greek chorus, explain that Eurydice has crossed the river of forgetfulness (which is portrayed as a shower in the elevator descending to the underworld), and now has no memory and no power of language. Her father greets her, but she does not know who he is. In the land of the living, Orpheus mourns Eurydice's death and writes her a letter, but does not know how to get it to her; he decides he might give it to a worm. It flutters down to the underworld, where her father reads it to her. The name of Orpheus helps her to regain her memory and recognize her father. Orpheus then lowers the collected works of Shakespeare on a string, and her father reads it to her, helping her to relearn language. Orpheus resolves to go to the underworld and bring Eurydice back. He sings outside the gate and rouses Hades, the lord of the underworld, who was the "interesting man" she met just before her death.

Act 3[edit]

Orpheus tells Hades that he is determined to take Eurydice back to the land of the living. Hades explains that she can follow him, but he must not look back to see if she is there; if he does she will be lost to him forever. Eurydice is fearful and does not want to leave her father, but he insists she must return with her husband. Afraid that she is being tricked and that it not really Orpheus she is following, she calls out his name. He turns around and she is pulled back to the underworld.

Meanwhile her father, desolate at losing her, dips himself in the river of forgetfulness. Eurydice, returning after her second death, finds that her father now has no memory or power of speech. Hades declares that he will take Eurydice as his bride. She writes a letter to Orpheus, lays it on the ground, and steps into the river of forgetfulness. Orpheus arrives and sees her, but then the shower robs him of his memory. He finds the letter she wrote him, but does not know how to read it.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, February 1, 2020
(Conductor: Matthew Aucoin)[4]
Eurydice soprano Danielle de Niese
Orpheus baritone Joshua Hopkins
Orpheus's Double countertenor John Holiday
Eurydice's Father baritone Rod Gilfry
Hades tenor Barry Banks
Little Stone soprano Stacey Tappan
Big Stone mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis
Loud Stone tenor Kevin Ray


Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times said the opera is "ambitious, confident, often impressive, mostly engaging, instrumentally colorful and splendidly singable. At its best, it is gratifying grand opera."[2] Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times suggested that Aucoin may have been too deferential to Ruhl's play, so that "the musical language of Eurydice is at times curiously tame." He added that "the opera's boldest stroke" is the creation of a double for Orpheus, so that the main character is portrayed as an "everyday guy" who has a gift for music, with a godlike dimension signified by his double.[5] Jim Farber wrote in the Orange County Register that the production was "a triumph – musically, visually and vocally."[6] Matthew Richard Martinez, writing for Bachtrack, noted that the creators (composer Aucoin, librettist Ruhl, and director Zimmerman) are all recipients of the MacArthur "Genius" grant and said that "Given the brilliance of the piece's music, its moving and unique take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, and its deft execution, three 'geniuses' make for one captivating opera."[7]

See also[edit]

List of Orphean operas


  1. ^ "The Metropolitan Opera Cancels Its 2020–21 Season". September 23, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Swed, Mark (February 3, 2020). "Review: At L.A. Opera, Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice almost has it all". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  3. ^ Alspaugh, Leann Davis. "Eurydice: A Myth for Modern Times". Performances Magazine.
  4. ^ "Eurydice Fact Sheet". Los Angeles Opera. February 10, 2020.
  5. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (February 3, 2020). "Review: Eurydice, a New Opera, Looks Back All Too Tamely". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  6. ^ Farber, Jim (February 3, 2020). "Los Angeles Opera's Eurydice is a triumph with fresh twists". Orange County Register. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  7. ^ Martinez, Matthew Richard (February 2, 2020). "Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice: a new take on an heroic journey". Bachtrack. Retrieved February 4, 2020.