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Rescue from Hell: Orpheus in Opera, The Afterlife in Judaism

Hosted By: The Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice powerfully tells of a universal wish that life does not end at the grave. Early operas by Monteverdi (1607) and Gluck (1762) explore ancient Greek concepts of mortality and afterlife through a lens of the musical and religious culture of Christian Europe. This course will study the music of these great operas and explore our confrontation with mortality and afterlife through the additional lens of Jewish thought and practice. Jewish sources have a great deal to say about the afterlife, largely because the lack of justice and appropriate recompense in our world demands an explanation. We will look at some classical Jewish texts expressing various views on the afterlife, and some passages from the Italian Jewish author Abraham Yagel – a contemporary of Monteverdi – who dreams of a heavenly journey in which he sees the fate of the dead, somewhat in the style of Dante.

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