The figure of the Thracian singer Orpheus, who used music to win over the natural world and the powers of hell, is one of the more important Western representations of music. The story of Orpheus, including the tragic fate of his love for Euridice, has been taken up by numerous opera librettists, who, while fully understanding the convention of the myth, have interfered significantly with its ancient redactions, often in order to satisfy the demands of contemporary audiences. Thus the originally planned scene of Orpheus being torn apart by the Bacchantes in Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo was tempered by the hero’s apotheosis. Orpheus’ ill-fated return from the underworld (without his beloved) was ingeniously resolved also in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s famous Orfeo ed Euridice, first performed in Vienna in 1762. Close collaboration between the composer, librettist and choreographer led to the creation of an excellent work, reinvigorating the opera genre, in which the primacy of the singing is subordinated to dramatic continuity. The myth of Orpheus has never really ceased to inspire musicians, a wonderful example of which is the concerto for percussion and orchestra Drum of Orfeo, written twenty years ago by the Polish composer and percussionist Marta Ptaszyńska. The series of ancient inspirations on our programme ends with Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem Thus Spake Zarathustra, based on motifs from Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous work.
Works by Marta Ptaszyńska are published by PWM Edition.