Orpheus in the Underworld (tr Nefs)

From Wind Repertory Project
Jacques Offenbach

Jacques Offenbach (trans. Jacco Nefs)

General Info

Year: 1858 / 2019
Duration: c. 9:00
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Symphony
Publisher: Jacco Nefs
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $130.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
Solo B-flat Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
Solo B-flat Trumpet I-II
B-flat Trumpet tutti
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The music of this overture is well known throughout world. The plot of the opera, not so well known, concerns the mythological musician Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice. Their domestic life leaves much to be desired, and Orpheus seeks happiness with Chloe, the beautiful shepherdess. His wife is in love with the shepherd, Aristeus, who is Pluto in disguise. On one occasion Eurydice is gathering flowers in the meadow, and by some mischance Orpheus mistakes her for Chloe; his perfidy is discovered, and Eurydice flies to Hades with Aristeus. Orpheus is delighted to have disposed of her so easily, but Popular Opinion demands that he make some effort to recover his spouse. Therefore Orpheus accuses Pluto before Jupiter, and all the gods of Olympus decide to accompany Orpheus to investigate the charges.

Eurydice is hidden in a secret chamber and is guarded by a stupid lout called John Styx. Jupiter, disguised as a fly, enters the chamber and buys Eurydice’s love with the promise of freedom. Pluto is compelled to return her to Orpheus, who is to receive her only if he can reach the river without turning to look at his wife. But Jupiter is plotting to keep Eurydice himself, and he causes a blinding flash of lightning, which forces Orpheus to turn his head and look back. Thus Jupiter retains Eurydice in subjection as a Bacchante, and Orpheus returns happily to Chloe.

- Program Note by Program Notes for Band

Orpheus became Offenbach’s initial triumph as the result of a devastating review. At its premiere and immediately thereafter, it had all the appearances of a failure. Some disliked the fact that it satirized Olympian gods; other thought it to be a bore; still others were shocked by its immoral suggestions and the inclusion of a can-can after a minuet. As the opera was about to close, critic Jules Janin hurled a savage attack, stating that, “it is a profanation of holy and glorious antiquity, in a spirit of irreverence that borders on blasphemy.” Offenbach and his librettists made a heated reply in the journal Figaro, and a heated exchange between those who attacked it and those who were tolerant of it erupted. Suddenly, the receipts at the box office mounted. People wanted to see this provocative show for themselves. The tunes from the opera were suddenly being heard everywhere. The opera began selling out for each performance, and continued to do so for more than 200 consecutive performances. The opera finally closed because the cast was exhausted. It could have continued for many more months.

- Program Note from Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music

Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld) is a comic operetta composed by Jacques Offenbach. The operetta is an irreverent parody and scathing satire on Gluck and his Orfeo ed Euridice, and culminates in the risqué 'Galop infernal' which is famous outside classical circles as the music for the can-can (to the extent that the tune is widely, but erroneously, called 'can-can'). This 'Galop' shocked some in the audience at the premiere.

The overture made prominent use of the operetta's best music, most obviously the concluding can-can. This overture rapidly gained popularity on its own account, and it remains a favourite piece for orchestral concerts.

- Program Note by transcriber


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • The Can-Can (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Thorp) (1858/2008)

All Wind Works