Orpheus in the Underworld
Music: Jacques Offenbach
Written in: Authored Date:

Act 1
Hot pants Eurydice, bored with her self-satisfied, none-too-faithful composer husband Orpheus, has been cavorting in the cornfields with a recent arrival on the rural scene, Aristaeus, a hairy hunk of sexy shepherd, who reveals himself as none other than Pluto, King of the Underworld, in fancy dress. Orpheus excruciates Eurydice with yet another of his interminable compositions; each would be glad to see the back of the other, so that when Pluto with his serpent's tail contrives the death of Eurydice, Calliope guardian of mythological morals, has some difficulty persuading son Orpheus that he must retrieve his wife by appealing to the Gods. Orpheus reluctantly says farewell to his pupils before Calliope and he fly off to Olympus with Icarus.

Act 2
At the start of Act Two, we are on Mount Olympus, where Father Zeus (Jupiter for short) is rousing his children for another tedious day of Olympian respectability. One or two of his children have been making a night of it elsewhere in the universe, and Juno, Jupiter's wife, has not unjustified suspicions of his own behaviour especially when Mercury dashes in with the latest gossip about the abduction of a mortal by a god. Juno is somewhat mollified when she hears suspicion has fallen on Pluto. Jupiter, naturally interested in seeing this paragon Eurydice for himself, summons Pluto to his presence.

After an interlude in which the intrepid air-travellers are passed and re-passed by Mercury and Pluto, we return to Olympus, where the gods, bored to tears with the eternal nectarine and ambrosian diet, finally rebel when Pluto attempts to exclude them from the juicy interview with Pluto. The latter is accused, but the tables are turned on randy old Jupy by his family when they remind him of his own meanderings midst the mortals. Orpheus arrives to plead his cause, and finally Jupy agrees to take "the whole damn lot" to see Eurydice in the Underworld.

Act 3
The third and last Act opens in Hades, where Eurydice, neglected by Pluto and with only weird old John Styx for company, laments her plight. Styx hopefully presses his suit but gets nowhere before Pluto and his party enter. Jupiter tries to locate Eurydice, but is diverted temporarily by a brisk explanation of the cause of men's downfall -"look for the lady". Only with son Cupid's help does Jupiter eventually become fly enough to gain access to Eurydice's bathroom through the keyhole.

Pluto then offers a hellish entertainment, which starts off as an orgy and works up -after a short pause for a minuet - to a climax, the infernal Gallop, or "Can Can". Finally, Orpheus is tricked into losing Eurydice, who rejects all other suitors in favour of Bacchus, God of Wine.

Orpheus in the Underworld, February 2012, Nuffield Theatre
Orpheus in the Underworld, June 1994, Nuffield Theatre
Orpheus in the Underworld, March 1987, The Guildhall
Orpheus in the Underworld, March 1974, The Guildhall

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