Sunday, February 13, 2011

Orpheus in the Underworld

It has been a while since I brought up Orpheus her.  I had been so into the myth last year when Anais Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown was released. And it is pretty clear that I love this story because of Persephone's role in the tale.

There is an often overlooked version of the story. Even though it is overlooked it might be the single most recognizable piece of music ever written.  It is a form of operetta written by composer Jacques Offenbach first performed in 1858.

In the second act, there is a song called The Infernal Gallop which has become associated with the French dance The Can-Can.  So much so that it is often called by the name Can-Can than by it's actual name.

I couldn't find too many actual performance videos (as opposed to orchestral versions) but this one is pretty good. 

There is, however, a version of the song used in the  Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge.  The movie is, in some ways, a descent into the underworld just like the journey of Orpheus.  In this instance, it is a naive young writer with stars in his eyes named Christian who finds himself in the seedy underworld of the Moulin Rouge and falls in love with the untouchable Satine. It remains one of my favorite movies. 

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