When French composer Jacques Offenbach sat down in 1858 to compose a satirical update of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1762 opera classic, “Orfeo ed Euridice” (Orpheus and Eurydice), he ended up penning what was to become the ultimate anthem for the burlesque dance form.

Offenbach’s “Infernal Galop” from his operetta, “Orpheus in the Underworld,” evolved into what is now popularly known as the “cancan,” a high-kicking chorus line. It scandalized Parisian society in its time and decades later became a standard at the Moulin Rouge, spreading internationally from there.

“Orpheus in the Underworld” makes its New Orleans Opera debut this weekend at the Mahalia Jackson Theater with Friday evening and Sunday matinee performances. A dazzling array of gods and goddesses from Mount Olympus and Hades come alive onstage in this parody of 1850s French society using the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as cover.

Casey Candebat sings the title role, sharing the stage with Sara Hershkowitz as Eurydice, Daniel Curran as Pluto and Jarrett Ott as Jupiter. Others in the primarily local cast include Angela Mannino, Cree Carrico, Elizabeth de Trejo, Amy Pfrimmer and Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, along with the New Orleans Opera Chorus. Robert Lyall conducts the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and Alison Moritz directs.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, with two optional brunches offered before the Sunday performance. For more information and tickets, call (504) 529-3000 or visit neworleansopera.org.


Orpheus in the Underworld

An operetta in two acts staged by the New Orleans Opera Association with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Lyall conducting.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, 1419 Basin St. (Louis Armstrong Park), New Orleans

TICKETS: $26-$225. Sunday brunch $25 extra.

INFO: (800) 881-4459 or (504) 529-3000. neworleansopera.org