Decisive moment in the history of opera: Italy, 1607. ‘L’Orfeo, favola in musica’, the late renaissance or early baroque opera by Claudio Monteverdi, is premiered in Mantua. The libretto, as excelent as the music, is by Alessandro Striggio.The story is obviously based on the greek legend of Orpheus, and tells the story of his descent to Hades and his fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Euridyce back to the living world, slightly changed in the opera to permit a happy ending. While the honour of the first surviving opera belongs to Jacopo Peri´s ‘Euridice’, Orfeo is the earliest one that is still regularly performed.


The most exquisite music joins here with a brilliant libretto. Its live representation renders the occasion to create a magical scenery and an attractive choreography, with much dance and movement.

This is opera at his beginning and at his best.

The following video reproduces the part in the first act dedicated to the nuptials of Orfeo and Eurydice. Particularly attractive is the praise to the Sun, addressed as the ‘rose of heavens’ and ‘life of the world’. The invocation to the god of Marriage (Hymen) is frequent in baroque opera and semiopera: a good additional example of it been found in ‘The fairy Queen’, by Henry Purcell.

Corot - Orfeo de regreso de los infiernos

Corot – Orfeo de regreso de los infiernos

Included are the words in the original italian and in english..M


Rosa del ciel
vita del mondo,
e degna prole di lui
che l’universo affrena;
Sol, che’l tutto circondi
e’l tutto miri
Da gli stellanti giri,
Dimmi, vedesti mai
Di me più lieto e fortunato amante?
Fu ben felice il giorno,
Mio ben, che pria ti vidi;
E più felice l’hora
Che per te sospirai,
Poi ch’al mio sospirar tu sospirasti.
Felicissimo il punto
Che la candida mano,
Pegno di pura fede,
à me porgesti.
Se tanti cori avessi
Quant’occhi ha’l ciel eterno,
e quante chiome
Han questi colli ameni
il verde maggio,
Tutti colmi sarieno e traboccanti
Di quel piacer
ch’oggi mi fa contento.EURIDICE
Io non dirò qual sia
nel tuo gioire, Orfeo, la gioia mia,
che non hò meco il core,
ma teco stassi in compagnia d’ Amore.
Chiedilo dunque a lui s’ intender brami
quanto lieta i gioisca, e quanto t’ ami.

Lasciate i monti,
lasciate i fonti,
ninfe vezzose e liete,
e in questi prati
ai balli usati
vago il bel piè rendete.

Qui miri il sole
vostre carole
più vaghe assai di quelle,
ond’ a la Luna,
a l’ aria bruna,
danzan in ciel le stelle.


Vieni, Imeneo, deh vieni
e la tua face ardente
sia quasi un Sol nascente
ch’ apporti à questi amanti i dì sereni
e lunge homai disgombre
de gli affanni e del duol gli orrore e l’ombre.

Rose of heaven,
life of the world,
and worthy progeny of him
who governs the universe;
Sun, who circumscribes everything
and sees everything,
From your starry rounds,
Tell me, did you ever see
than I a happier and more fortunate lover?
Happy was the day,
My love, that first I saw you;
And even happier the hour
That I sighed for you,
Since at my sigh, you sighed.
Happiest the moment
That your white hand,
A pledge of pure faith,
to me you offered.
If I had as many hearts
As heaven has eternal eyes,
and as many leaves
as have these pleasant hills
this green May,
All would be filled and overflowing
With that pleasure
that today makes me content.EURIDICE:
I cannot say how great the joy
your joy, Orpheus, inspires in me may be,
since my heart is not with me
but with you, companioned by Love.
Ask him, therefore, if you long to know
how it rejoices and how much it loves you.

Come from your hills,
come from your springs,
ye Nymphs so comely and happy,
and in these meadows
where dance is no stranger,
trip on your dainty feet.

Here shall the Sun
behold your measures,
lovelier far than those
danced to the moon
at dead of night
by the stars of the sky.


Descend of Hymen, descend,
and may your glowing torch
be like a rising sun
bringing to these lovers cloudless days
and scattering afar
the hideous murky shades of care and pain


© 2014
Lino Althaner