The legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set down in ancient times by Virgil and Ovid, has inspired more operas than any other story of its time.

It is the foundation of some of the first operas – Jacopo Peri’s Euridice (c. 1600) and Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo of 1607 – and the tale of the attempted rescue of a lover from the clutches of the underworld has been retold and reimagined in dozens of operas since by composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann, Joseph Haydn, Darius Milhaud and Harrison Birtwistle. Most recently, the legend was reanimated in the 2020 opera Eurydice by composer Matthew Aucoin and librettist-playwright Sarah Ruhl.

Now a new project featuring in this year’s Brisbane Festival will bring together three of the most memorable of the ‘Orphean’ operas into a single production, Underworld: An Operatic Journey to Hell and Back – Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice (1762), Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers (1858) and Philip Glass’s 1993 chamber work Orphée.

Underworld: An Operatic Journey to Hell and Back. Image supplied

The project, which premieres in the Brisbane Festival, is the brainchild of writer and director Michael Gow and Johannes Fritzch of the...