Taking a look behind the scandal of opera

Opera della Luna in one of their previous productions
Opera della Luna in one of their previous productions

Opera lovers who want to understand why Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld was condemned as scandalous when it was first performed in France in the 1850s, have the chance to learn more about this production.

The opera is on at Stowe later this month presented by the Opera della Luna.

A company of multi talented singers, comedians and dancers will cast a satirical eye on our own society in much the same way that Offenbach’s original lambasted second Empire Paris.

But before then a lecture with musical excerpts is to be held at The Radcliffe Centre, Church Street, Buckingham at 6.30pm on Tuesday July 14.

University of Buckingham acting vice-chancellor, Professor Alistair Alcock, who is also chairman of Opera della Luna, will join together with artistic director of Opera della Luna Jeff Clarke to give the talk, free of charge.

“A desecration of the gods!” is how one critic referred to one of the first performances of Orpheus in the Underworld.

But the composer Offenbach was not so much desecrating ancient Greece as his own French bourgeois society, according to Professor Alcock, who will examine the role of the tempestuous French social and political scene in 1858 on Offenbach’s composition.

Professor Alcock said of Orpheus, known for the Can-Can and a host of other well known melodies: “The early performances of Orpheus were not rapturously received, but the box office was slowly improving until the stinging review from Jules Janin.

“His declaration that Orpheus ‘was a desecration of the gods!’ transformed its fortunes.

“It became an overnight sellout - what no doubt caused Parisians to flock to the show was its lampooning of the Regime and of the part that they, the middle class themselves, played within it.”

Jeff Clarke will discuss the challenges of translating and producing the work for a modern day audience.

There will be a Q&A after the lecture with free wine and nibbles laid on.

Opera della Luna is putting on two performances of Orpheus in the Roxburgh Hall at Stowe at 7.30pm on Saturday July 18 and at 6pm on Sunday July 19. Tickets cost £60 from 01608 642350.

Patrons are welcome to take a picnic along and dine alfresco on the South Front of Stowe from two hours prior to the performance.