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ACT I
Orphée, a famous poet, chats with another old poet friend and watches enviously as a group of young people swarm around Cégeste, a younger, up-and-coming poet. Orphée becomes transfixed with Cégeste’s patron, The Princess, but the spell is broken when the drunken Cégeste starts a brawl. The cops arrive and break up the party. Cégeste manages to flee, but once outside, is struck down by two motorcyclists. The stunned crowd watches as the motorcyclists enter, bearing Cégeste’s lifeless body. As the police try to move the body, The Princess and her chauffeur Heurtebise intervene, and the party clears out. She then demands that Orphée accompany her as they transport Cégeste’s body. In a state of shock, Orphée complies, but then is startled to see The Princess bringing Cégeste back to life and leading him through a mirror. Heurtebise returns, carrying a radio, which he presents to the dazed Orphée, then escorts Orphée home.

At home, Orphée’s wife Eurydice worries and waits for the missing Orphée to return. Her friend Aglaonice waits with her, along with the police commissioner. Finally, to Eurydice’s relief, Orphée arrives, but then rudely dismisses both the commissioner and Aglaonice. Distracted and preoccupied, Orphée interrupts his wife as she tries to tell him that she is pregnant, then closes himself in his studio along with the radio, leaving Eurydice with Heurtebise, who has entered unobtrusively and has watched the entire scene. Time passes. Orphée becomes obsessed with listening to the radio, which emits mysterious messages. Neglecting Eurydice, he works feverishly to transcribe the words, which he interprets as poetic inspiration. Eurydice turns to Heurtebise for comfort.

Cégeste’s death and disappearance remain a mystery. At the commissioner’s office, Aglaonice and Orphée’s older poet friend accuse Orphée of plagiarizing Cégeste’s work. The commissioner reminds them that Orphée is a national treasure and dismisses them; they threaten to find their own justice.

Meanwhile, the desperately unhappy Eurydice decides to visit Aglaonice. As she leaves, motorcycles are heard once again, and Heurtebise rushes out, returning a moment later with the dying Eurydice, whom he lays out tenderly.

When Heurtebise tries to tell Orphée that his wife is near death, the poet ignores him, preferring to write. Finally, Orphée looks up from his work and Heurtebise informs him that his wife is dead; but, if Orphée is willing to follow, he can reclaim Eurydice from The Princess, whom Heurtebise reveals as Death. Heurtebise and Orphée travel through the mirror.

ACT II
In the Underworld, The Princess is on trial before a panel of nameless judges for taking Eurydice’s life without proper orders. During the strange trial, Cégeste, The Princess, Orphée, Heurtebise, and Eurydice are each interrogated, and it comes out that Heurtebise is in love with Eurydice. The judges withdraw to study the case, leaving Orphée and The Princess alone together. Orphée professes his love for her and swears to return to her, regardless of what happens. The judges return and pronounce their sentence: The Princess is given provisional freedom, and Eurydice may return to her life with Orphée, on the condition that he never looks directly at her again. Heurtebise, at his own suggestion, is appointed to accompany them. They return home, but find it nearly impossible to comply with the condition. To avoid Eurydice, Orphée retreats into his study along with the mysterious radio, but eventually, his gaze falls on his wife and she immediately disappears back into the Underworld.

Soon after, a mob of angry youngsters appears to confront Orphée about Cégeste’s death. Heurtebise gives Orphée a pistol, and during the confrontation, Orphée is shot. Returning to the Underworld, Orphée is reunited with The Princess, but she commands Heurtebise to return Orphée, once and for all, to his life. Despite his protests, she explains that “A poet’s death must sacrifice herself to make him immortal.”

Orphée is returned through the mirror, and finds Eurydice resting casually. They chat about the child they’re expecting and then Orphée heads back to work, seemingly unaware of all that has passed. In the Underworld, The Princess and Heurtebise are led off to their frightening, unspecified judgments.

-- courtesy of Sam Helfrich