Orfeo: Act V
Orpheus opens the final act singing Questi i campi di Tracia
(“These are the fields of Thrace”), bringing the audience back to the scene where the
favola opened. He contrasts his earlier joy with the sorrow he now feels, and there follow
the same vocal echo effects as were used in Cavalieri’s
Anima e Corpo, in which Orpheus invites
nature to partake of his lamentations. Then he vows to dedicate his playing and singing only to
Eurydice and, alluding to the classical story and to Striggio’s original libretto, pledges to have nothing further to do with
Orpheus and the Bacchantes
(Wikimedia Commons) treacherous and vile women. A reprise of the sinfonia that preceded and followed Orpheus’s plea to Charon concludes his lament.
Apollo descends in a cloud, promising to help Orpheus in his anguish; Orpheus now sorrows too much where formerly he loved too much, and Apollo will grant him immortality. Orpheus asks if he is never again to see his beloved’s eyes, and Apollo tells him that he will see her beauty in the sun and the stars. After he assents, Orpheus and Apollo ascend into heaven where true virtue and peace await. After the chorus comments on the hero’s fortune, the opera closes with a danced moresca.
The closing act is brief, although Orpheus himself expresses his
grief in the extended Questi i campi di Tracia. The echo effect supports the mythological element of the story whereby
(Wikimedia Commons) Orpheus is said to have been able to command all of nature with his singing, borne out by his words Che poss’io più se non volgermi a voi, selve soavi (“What more can I do but turn to you, delightful woods?”).
The duet Saliam cantando d’al cielo (“We rise, singing, toward heaven”) is, next to Possente spirto, the only other highly florid passage, this time set for Orpheus and Apollo. As patron god of music, it would be expected that Apollo’s musical prowess should match that of Orpheus. Indeed, in some versions of the myth, Orpheus’s father is not a Thracian prince but the sun–god himself. The lyre — Orpheus’s instrument of power — was said to have been invented by Hermes and given to Apollo, “who drew from it sounds so melodious that when he played in Olympus the gods forgot all else.”