The Eurydice Suite is an orchestral condensation of my opera Eurydice, which is based on Sarah Ruhl’s surreal and heartbreaking play. Like the opera, the suite begins with an unsettling sound: the metallic “ping” of oblivion that announces the passage of the newly-dead through the river of forgetfulness. And like the opera, the suite toggles between the world of the living and the subterranean realm of the dead.
The suite’s first movement is a tour of the underworld: its watery percussion sounds, its “strange high-pitched noises, like a tea kettle always boiling over.” Near the end of the movement, we hear a strange sound from the contemporary world: the keening wail of a New York subway train pulling out of a station. Eurydice, newly arrived in death, hallucinates that she is alone on some unknown train platform, waiting for someone—she can’t quite remember who—to meet her.
The second movement pays a visit the world above, where Orpheus (in the guise of a solo clarinet) mourns luxuriantly. He drops a letter into the earth, hoping it will reach the underworld; and as his music fades away, we return down below, where Eurydice’s father patiently builds her a room out of string. In the third movement, the string section embodies the slow weaving of that delicate room.
The fourth movement is a phantasmagorical montage of the opera’s final act: the disastrous walk toward the world above, and the many missed connections that lead to every character being dipped once again in the river of forgetfulness.