Orfeo ed Euridice

The Metropolitan Opera on Wednesday, May 9.

Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is an odd little opera. For one thing, Euridice ends up alive, even after Orfeo disobeys the gods and turns to look at her as he leads her out of the underworld. As one reared on Greek myths, I find that happy ending kind of appalling, but according to the Met’s program notes, Gluck did, too (“I was forced to alter the climax,” he lamented), so I feel a bit more forgiving on that score—especially considering how gorgeous the music is.

And damn, is it ever gorgeous. Gluck avoids vocal pyrotechnics in favor of a refreshingly unshowy aesthetic: simple and poignant. Even the narrative structure is pared down. With only three solo parts (Orfeo, Euridice, and Amor), the opera’s straightforward, subplot-free storytelling makes the already archetypal tale feel positively elemental. Nothing distracts from the beauty of the music.