"Is that why we are taught myths, so that later on when we need them, we can tell our own stories through them?" -Ricky Ian Gordon
The legend of love and loss that is Orpheus and Euridice has played muse to artists for centuries. American composer Ricky Ian Gordon found solace in this tale, which led him to create Orpheus & Euridice. For Gordon, this journey evokes the question, "Why myths?" Escape with the myth that helped Gordon tell his own story.
Orpheus and Eurydice.
Painting from 1806
by C. G. Kratzenstein-Stub,
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
Orpheus, the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope, was a musician and poet whose lyrical melodies could tame wild animals, cause trees and rocks to dance, and divert rivers from their course. Orpheus loved Euridice passionately, and on their wedding day he played joyful songs as she danced through the meadow.
But one fateful day, a satyr pursued Euridice. Fleeing, she fell into a nest of vipers, was bit on the heel, and quickly died. When Orpheus discovered his beloved, he was so overcome with grief that he played a song so mournful that all the nymphs and gods wept. With their advice, Orpheus journeyed to the Underworld to rescue her.
He charmed the heart of Hades with his music and was allowed to return with her to Earth as long as he didn’t look back along the way. As he neared Earth he was anxious to reassure himself Euridice was still behind him, but when he turned back, she vanished into the Underworld. His pleas to the Ferryman on the River Styx to return him back to the Underworld went unheeded, and he was left to mourn the loss of his love a second time.
Upon his return, Orpheus, unable to recover from his grief, paid no attention to the Thracian women. This angered them and they threw their spears, tore him in pieces, and tossed his head and his lyre into the Hebrus River. Jupiter threw his lute into the stars while Orpheus’s soul entered the Underworld where he was finally reunited with his love, Euridice.