The Structure of The Mask of Orpheus



"The opera is in three parts. The first part tells the story of Orpheus the man. The second act tells the story of Orpheus the hero who went to the underworld and the third part is the story of Orpheus the God where he becomes a singer and a religion."

In the three acts of the opera, the telling of the story is underpinned by underlying ritualistic structures:

The structure of the first act revolves around ceremonies: Orpheus and Euridice's wedding and Euridice's death and funeral.


The structure of the second act involves a journey through seventeen dream-like gigantic arches in order to depict Orpheus' descent into and return from the Underworld.


The structure of the last act centres around the sacrifice of Orpheus underpinned by the ebb and flow of the Tides.







"At various moments in the opera there are interruptions which are called the Passing Clouds of Abandon and the Allegorical Flowers of Reason. These interruptions are accompanied by electronic music which is only on tape, and they happen at the most dramatic, violent and lyrical moments. The interruptions are stories from Ovid, of the metamorphosis of Ovid and they have a beginning, a middle and an end. They're complete events which take three minutes each."


See below for the six Ovid stories of metamorphosis . . .
ONE	TWO	THREE	FOUR	FIVE	SIX

ONE - The Story of Dionysus
The body of Dionysus was torn to shreds by the Titans. The pices were boiled in a cauldron and turned into a pomegranate tree. Nevertheless Rhea, his grandmother, was able to reconstitute him.


TWO - The Anemone
Despite Venus' warning, her beloved Adonis hunted a boar and was grievously wounded in the genitals. Venus vainly tried to save him. In sorrow she turned his blood into an anemone. The flower lasts a short time and its petals fall off easily in the wind that gave it its name.


THREE - The Story of Lycurgas
Dionysus was nearly caught and killed by Lycurgas. Rhea drove Lycurgas mad. So much so that he chopped down and killed his own son, thinking that he was pruning a vine. The whole land grew barren in horror at his cxrime. His people led Lycurgas to Mt. Pangaeum where wild horses pulled his body apart.


FOUR - The Hyacinth
As Apollo and the youth Hyacinth completed at the discus, Hyacinth was killed by the returning discus that Apollo had thrown. Despite all the God could do the boy died. Apollo changed him into the hyacinth with the mournful greek characters "AI-AI" marked on it to this day.


FIVE - The Story of Pentheus
Pentheus disliked the dissolute appearence of Dionysus. Dionysus sent him mad so that while he thought that he was tying up Dionysus, he was actually tying up a bullock. The Maenads tore the bullock to pieces and as Pentheus tried to stop them they tore him to pieces too. It was his own mother who wrenched off his head.


SIX - The Lotus
Beautiful Dryope was feeding her infant at her breast by the edge of a pool. She picked some flowers and saw, to her horror, blood fall from them. She had not known that Lotus, a nymph, has changed herself into the flowers to escape from Priapus' lust. Dryope prayed to the water nymphs and tried to leave but she was slowly transformed into a lotus tree. Her husband and father protected the tree from animals and allowed her son to play under the shade of what had been his mother.
BACK