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Orphei mysteria : for mezzo-soprano, soprano and ensemble

by Nigel Butterley (, this version: 2008)

Score Sample

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Streaming Audio

ABC Classic AMP

Listen online to a full-length recording of this work.
performed by Halcyon
Access to this recording is courtesy of the ABC's classic amp website.

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Orphei mysteria


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Orphei mysteria / Nigel Butterley ; performed by Halcyon

Library shelf no. CD 2053 [Available for loan]

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Work Details

Year: , this version: 2008

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano, soprano, flute, cor anglais, bass clarinet, guitar, violin, viola, cello.

Duration: 23 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: I. Prologue -- The Head of Orpheus -- The Lemon Tree -- II. The Lyre of Orpheus -- III. The Lemon Tree -- The Song of Orpheus -- Epilogue.

The text is a response to the Orpheus myth by Patricia Excell. The Prologue and Epilogue are from the Petelia Tablet, Southern Italy 3rd-4th century BCE.

Highly commended in the Paul Lowin Award for Song Cycle, 2009.

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for/to
2009 Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize Highly Commended Nigel Butterley


Performances of this work

12 Jul 2014: at Giving Voice (St Bede's Anglican Church, Drummoyne). Featuring Halcyon, Matthew Wood.

17 Oct 08: Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Featuring Halcyon, Mark Shiell.

User reviews

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My favourite Australian art song repertoire

Posted by Australian Music Centre on 22 July, 2013

The AMC asked leading practitioners to select their favourite Australian art song repertoire, to provide delegates to the 2013 International Conference of Vocal Teachers (Brisbane 2013) with an introduction to this rich and diverse landscape.
Although written as a work for two voices, Mysteria Orphei is a beautifully crafted work primarily for mezzo soprano (with interspersed unearthly duo 'refrains') demonstrating  Butterley's typically mellifluous and subtle instrumental writing and evocative text setting.  The vocal line, which gives the singer room to convey drama and narrative as well as mystery and serenity in turns, is demanding of good intonation and pitch accuracy (instrumental unison pitches often sounding after the singer's entry).  The melodic lines are fluid and extremely satisfying to learn. 
Jenny Duck-Chong