Orfeo is the main character in the opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck in the 18th century. The opera is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, an artist, who could tame beasts, and move stones through the sheer virtue of his singing. When his wife dies, his love for her drives him to dare entering the legendary underworld and demand Euridice back from the gods of the underworld. They grant his wish under the long-famous condition that he not turn back to look into her eyes as he leads her back along the trail to the world of the living.
Currently also I am writing an opera on the Orpheus legend. In it I am focussing on this motif of not-looking-back. The title of my piece is Schau nicht zurück, Orfeo! or “Don't Look Back, Orfeo!.” One of the ways in which I treat musically the notion of not-looking-back is by quoting Gluck's music at times and then composing away from it further and further, integrating into the score instruments that were not in use in Europe's orchestras at Gluck's time.
In this context I have written Orfeo on My Mind in which shakuhachi and koto are freely paraphrasing the French overture that Gluck had written for his opera.
(Stefan Hakenberg, 2009)