Click here for a synopsis in Spanish.
Orpheus, a choreographer, rehearses his new ballet The Isle of the Dead, inspired by the painting by Arnold Böcklin. His wife Eurydice, the company’s temperamental star performer, is to dance the principal role. She arrives late—they quarrel. Furious, Eurydice leaves the rehearsal.
An accident—Eurydice is dead. Friends and passersby mourn the sudden loss. In shock and tortured by grief and regret, Orpheus sadly recalls his wedding. In despair, he suffers a breakdown. His assistant, Amour, comforts him, suggesting the mythical journey of Orpheus into the Underworld.
In his madness, Orpheus imagines himself in Hades, where the Furies angrily block his attempt to pass through the Underworld. He begs them to pity him, explaining that if they had suffered as he has done, they would not be so indifferent. Calmed by Orpheus, the Furies allow him to enter Elysium.
Orpheus is astonished by the serenity and beauty of Elysium, but he feels that only after being reunited with Eurydice can he savor its joys. His impatience is finally placated when his wife is brought to him. As in the myth, the condition of her being restored to life is that he not look at her until they are back on Earth.
Without looking at his wife, Orpheus urges her to follow him quickly. Astonished to realize that she is still alive, Eurydice wonders how this can be, but Orpheus refuses to answer any of her pleading questions. Stunned by his silence, her temperament flares up at what she perceives as his indifference. Unable to stand her pleading and accusations any longer, Orpheus turns to her. Eurydice dies again. Orpheus laments her death bitterly. Amour convinces him that his suffering has conquered all, and that Eurydice will live on in Orpheus’s heart and in the imaginary ballet he created.
Synopsis by John Neumeier