The 1859 revival of Gluck's Orphée, reworked for the occasion by Berlioz, was one of a series of operatic résurrections staged at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris during the Second Empire. Starring Pauline Viardot (1821–1910) in the title role, it was the first major revival of Gluck's opera since the 1820s and attracted considerable attention in the press and elsewhere. Critics and others were fascinated by Viardot's dramatic presence on stage, producing images (both in pictures and words) of her Orpheus that are often striking in their awareness of time past. Indeed, ambivalence about the past and its artefacts might be said to haunt the reception of a work – and performer – many designated as the epitome of the classique. Contextualising this Orphée within the changing meanings of the term classique in the mid-nineteenth century, the article focuses on a particularly revealing moment in the transition between an operatic culture based on new works and one ever more reliant on revivals of acknowledged masterpieces.