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Category Archives: Orphee

According to Wikipedia: “Le Jeune Homme et La Mort” is a ballet by Roland Petit, choreographed in 1946 to Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582 (omitting the fugue), with a one-act libretto by Jean Cocteau. Sets were by Georges Wakhévitch and costumes variously reported as being by Karinska or Cocteau.

The libretto has similarities wth Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus/Orphee” film.

To my mind, Uliana Lopatkina is one of the best performers of this iconic role. She shows cold wickedness and inner passion of Cocteau’s Death. Vicious. Perfect. Maria Casares would definitely enjoy.


María Casares as The Princess and 
Marie Déa as Eurydice

Image courtesy of The Criterion Collection

Maria Casares at the premier of Jean Cocteau film Orphee (1950).

Private collection.

Someday I will write some of my own thoughts, but today I post this article.

While he is perhaps more widely known for his lovely 1946 adaptation Beauty
and the Beast
, Jean Cocteau’s finest achievement is arguably Orpheus,
a 1950 update on the Greek myth of the same name.

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Marnie Breckenridge (American opera singer), soprano. Played the role of Death (Princess) in Philip Glass’ Orphee February 26th and 27th 2011 at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

Marnie Breckenridge – An Interview with “La Princesse” of Philip Glass’ Orphée

By Seán Martinfield

Ensemble Parallèle presents Philip Glass’ Orphée February 26th and 27th at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. The work is a direct adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s iconic 1950 film and screenplay, Orphée. The film is a re-telling of the classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. The script is opulent in language, its look and use of special effects is stunningly simple yet provocative. The character of “Orpheus” is portrayed by Jean Marais, the romantic hero of Cocteau’s 1946 masterpiece, La Belle et La Bête. Beside him as “Eurydice” is Marie Déa and in-between them is the figure of Death – “La Princesse” – played by enigmatic beauty, Maria Casarès. The themes are strong. What is love? What is death? What is the point of living? Jean Cocteau’s Orphée is cinematic poetry. It was inevitable that it should be transformed into an opera.

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A man who dozes, his mouth half open, in front of a wood fire, lets slip some secrets from that night of the human body that is called the soul, over which he is no longer master.
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When I make a film, it is a sleep in which I am dreaming. Only the people and places of the dream matter. I have difficulty making contact with others, as one does when half-asleep. If a person is asleep and someone else comes into the sleeper’s room, this other person does not exist. He or she exists only if introduced into the events of the dream. Sunday is not a real day of rest for me, I try to go back to sleep as quickly as possible.
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Maria Montez, “The Queen of Technicolor” nearly played Death instead of Maria Casares. Jean Cocteau was trying to raise a big budget for “Orphee”, to star (Jean-Pierre) Aumont and Montez, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming, so he slashed the budget and made the film with his friends Jean Marais and Maria Casares (no doubt his preferred choice anyway). Montez was very disappointed, and Aumont (her husband) tried to cheer her up: “You’ll have other roles, more beautiful and charming ones to suit your personality.”

“But darling,” Montez protested, “Death should be beautiful and charming.”