1 (Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice). Cont. (travesti role)/ten. (originally castrato). A musician, who goes to Hades to search for his dead wife. He is forbidden to look at her, but cannot resist turning round as he leads her out of the underworld. Again she dies. The God of Love takes pity on him, moved by the intensity of the lament he sings, and brings her back to life again. The famous lament is Che farò senza Euridice (‘What shall I do without Eurydice’, but always sung in English as ‘What is life for me without you?’). The role is a favourite with many great mez. and cont., and has been sung most famously by Pauline Viardot, Clara Butt, Kathleen Ferrier, and Janet Baker, and by the counterten. Jochen Kowalski. Created (It. vers. 1762, Vienna) by Gaetano Guadagni (alto castrato); (Fr. vers. 1762, Paris) by Joseph Legros (ten.).
2 (Haydn: Orfeo ed Euridice). Ten. After being forced by Euridice to look at her, thus causing her death, Orfeo takes poison. Created (1951) by Tygge Tyggeson.
3 (Monteverdi: L'Orfeo). Ten./sop. Orfeo is taken to Heaven by his father Apollo to see his beloved Euridice in the stars. Created (1607) by Francesco Rasi (the ten. and composer).
See also Orpheus.