Christoph Willibald Gluck  
Christoph Willibald Gluck

Gluck,  portrait by Joseph Duplessis, dated 1775
(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Christoph Willibald Gluck, Ritter (knight) Von Gluck (born July 2, 1714, Erasbach, near Berching, Upper Palatinate, Bavaria [Germany]—died Nov. 15, 1787, Vienna, Austria), German classical composer, best known for his operas, including Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767), Paride ed Elena (1770), Iphigénie en Aulide (1774), the French version of Orfeo (1774), and Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). He was knighted in 1756.

Early life
Gluck’s paternal forebears, mostly foresters, were of the border territory between the Upper Palatinate and Bohemia; nothing is known of his ancestors on his mother’s side. His father, Alexander Gluck, had moved to Erasbach as a ranger in 1711–12; the family then moved to Reichstadt near Böhmisch-Leipa in Bohemia. Between 1722 and 1727 they lived near Böhmisch-Kamnitz and after this, until 1736, in Eisenberg (near Komotau), where Alexander Gluck held the post of master forester to Prince Philipp Hyazinth von Lobkowitz.

Gluck, whose father probably intended for him to continue in the family employment of forestry, at an early age showed a strong inclination toward music. In order to escape from disagreements with his father, the young Gluck left home (probably about 1727) and, supporting himself by his music, made his way to Prague, where he played in several churches, began university work (1731), and continued his musical studies. He went to Vienna in the winter of 1735–36. There he was discovered by a Lombard nobleman who took him to Milan, where Gluck, apart from fulfilling his duties in the Melzi family chapel, spent four years studying composition with the Italian organist and composer Giovanni Battista Sammartini, from whom he learned the new Italian style of instrumental music. Probably six trio sonatas, each consisting of two movements with a minuet as conclusion and printed in London in 1746, were the fruits of his studies with Sammartini in Milan. Besides the six “London” sonatas, Gluck probably composed further trio sonatas under Sammartini.

On Dec. 26, 1741, in the Teatro Ducal in Milan, Gluck had his first great dramatic success with his first opera, Artaserse, to a libretto by P. Metastasio. Until 1745 there then followed an annual succession of operas for this theatre: Demofoonte (1742), Arsace (in collaboration with G.B. Lampugnani; 1743), Sofonisba (1744), and Ippolito (1745). In addition, Gluck wrote Cleonice (Demetrio) (1742) for Venice; Il Tigrane (1743) for Crema; and Poro (1744) for Turin. In these early works, of which mostly only fragments have survived, Gluck largely followed the existing Italian operatic fashion—melodic but never grand, charming without intensity. Occasional intensely passionate outbursts and the beginning of characterization, however, foreshadowed the great dramatic composer he was to become.

Gluck, drawn and lithograph by F. E. Feller (painting by von Edmé Quenedey)


The middle years
In 1745 Gluck, by then well known as an operatic composer, was invited to England at the instigation of Lord Middlesex, director of Italian opera at the Haymarket Theatre, London, in order to challenge Handel’s solid hold on London opera goers. The plan at first failed when, because of the political chaos caused by the Stuart rising, all theatres in London were closed before Gluck arrived in England. When the situation became calmer, theatrical activities recommenced with a performance of Gluck’s opera La caduta de’ giganti on Jan. 17, 1746; the libretto, by A.F. Vanneschi, glorified the hero of the day, the Duke of Cumberland, after his victory at Culloden over the forces of Prince Charles Edward, the Stuart claimant to the British throne. This work, as well as Gluck’s second London opera, Artamene, produced on March 14, 1746, consisted largely of music from his own earlier works, lack of time having forced him to this device. Neither opera met with success. On March 25, shortly after the production of Artamene, Handel and Gluck together gave a concert in the Haymarket Theatre consisting of works by Gluck and an organ concerto by Handel, played by the composer. Gluck had won Handel’s interest despite the latter’s later much-quoted criticism of Gluck’s lack of contrapuntal ability (Handel said that Gluck “knows no more counterpoint than my cook”). Gluck himself, according to the Irish singer Michael Kelly, tried to emulate Handel, whom he described as the “divine master of our art.”

After he left England (possibly in 1746) Gluck came into contact with two travelling opera companies, one of which, on June 29, 1747, performed his opera-serenade Le nozze d’Ercole e d’Ebe at Pillnitz Castle, near Dresden, on the occasion of the double wedding between the electoral families of Bavaria and Saxony. By early 1748 at the latest, Gluck was back in Vienna, at work on Pietro Metastasio’s Semiramide riconosciuta, with which, on May 14, 1748, the Burgtheater was inaugurated. It proved a brilliant success for the composer, although Metastasio privately termed its music “insupportably barbaric.” At that time Gluck met his future wife, Marianne Pergin, the 16-year-old daughter of a rich merchant; in the same year, as conductor of the P. and A. Mingotti Travelling Opera company, he travelled via Hamburg to Copenhagen, where he composed the opera-serenade La contesa dei Numi in celebration of the birth of the heir to the Danish throne; the work in some respects foreshadows his later reform operas. During the following two winters Gluck was in Prague, where he wrote Ezio (1750) and Issipile (1751–52). On Sept. 15, 1750, he married Marianne in the Church of St. Ulrich in Vienna. Their marriage, which produced no children, was reportedly harmonious—and no doubt his wife’s connections were to Gluck’s advantage. Gluck later adopted his niece, Marianne. Before the young couple set up a permanent home in Vienna in the winter of 1752–53, Gluck took his wife to Naples for the summer of 1752, where he composed music for Metastasio’s drama La clemenza di Tito after having rejected the text of Arsace, which he had already once set to music.

In Vienna, Gluck soon found a patron in the imperial field marshal Prince Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, who engaged him first as Konzertmeister of his orchestra and later as Kapellmeister. Gluck gave successful performances of his symphonies and arias at weekly concerts in the Prince’s palace and made a particular impression with his opera-serenade Le Cinesi, which was performed on Sept. 24, 1754, in the presence of the Emperor and Empress at a magnificent celebration at Schlosshof Castle. This success may well have contributed to the decision of the director of the court theatre to entrust the provision of the “theatrical and academic music” for the imperial court to Gluck. On May 5, 1755, Gluck’s opera-serenade La danza was performed at the imperial Castle of Laxenburg, near Vienna, and on December 8 of the same year followed L’innocenza giustificata. The following year (1756) Vienna saw Il repastore, while the first performance of the opera Antigono was given during a visit to Rome. In Rome Gluck was created Knight of the Golden Spur, and after his return to Vienna he set to work to provide music for a number of French vaudeville comedies imported from Paris. Tircis et Doristée (1756) may have been a first attempt at this genre. In these Parisian comedies the dialogue was spoken or sung in the manner of street songs, so-called timbres. After 1758 Gluck proceeded more independently and composed for such works as La Fausse Esclave, L’Île de Merlin (1758), La Cythère assiégée (1759), Le Diable à quatre, L’Arbre enchanté (1759), L’Ivrogne corrigé (1760), and Le Cadi dupé (1761), which contained, in addition to the overture, a steadily increasing number of new songs in place of the stock vaudeville tunes. In La Rencontre imprévue, first performed in Vienna on Jan. 7, 1764, no vaudeville elements remain at all, with the result that the work is a perfect example of opéra comique. Gluck gave the scores of Le Cadi dupé and La Rencontre imprévue particular charm by using “oriental” instrumental effects. In many of the arias, tuneful melody and programmatic writing foreshadow later developments in Gluck’s operatic style: in, for instance, the first examples of complex scene development in L’Île de Merlin and L’Ivrogne corrigé.



The late works
In February 1761 Ranieri Calzabigi, a friend of the adventurer Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, visited Vienna. His libretto for Orfeo ed Euridice, partly based on the theories and practices of such literary men as D. Diderot, F.M. von Grimm, Rousseau, and Voltaire, was enthusiastically greeted by Gluck’s friends, who immediately brought the two together. On Oct. 17, 1761, the dramatic ballet Le Festin de pierre (Don Juan), was presented, based on a scenario by Gasparo Angiolini; Gluck later composed the music for two additional dance dramas by Angiolini, Semiramide and Iphigénie (both 1765). More significantly, during this period Gluck wrote the three Italian “reform operas” with Calzabigi, Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), Alceste (1767), and Paride ed Elena (1770).

The foreword to Alceste, signed but perhaps not wholly authored by the composer, stands as a manifesto of operatic reform, aiming for “simplicity, truth and naturalness” in plot, language, and musical declamation and form, specifically rejecting the elaborate conventions of Metastasian opera seria. In place of involved plots in the older manner, there was to be a simple, true, and natural action in the tradition of the classical drama; in place of courtly conventions, there was to be a purely human element. The chorus, again on the classical pattern, was to have equal importance with the main characters of the action, participating directly in the dramatic events. The function of the music was, in the words of the foreword to Alceste, “to serve poetry by means of expression and by following the situations of the story, without interrupting the action or stifling it with a useless superfluity of ornaments.” The recitativo secco (“unaccompanied recitative”) was banished (except in Alceste); the recitativo accompagnato, arioso, aria, chorus, and pantomime were welded together with declamatory style and expressive orchestral writing to form scenes and groups of scenes as parts of a great work of architecture. As Gluck himself confessed, the impulse toward opera reform came from Calzabigi. But it must also be recognized that Calzabigi proceeded largely from the ideas put forward after 1750 by the Parisian poetic and literary circles mentioned above, while important new musical features (e.g., the complex scene development and the powerfully simple text settings) were the contributions of Gluck’s own genius.

Besides the three Italian “reform operas,” which were not written as the result of a particular request, there appeared a series of commissioned works, partly after librettos by Metastasio: Il trionfo di Clelia (Bologna, 1763), the second version of Ezio of 1750 (Vienna, 1763) and, after a short visit to Paris in the spring of 1764, Il Parnaso confuso, Telemaco o sia L’isola di Circe, and the dance drama Semiramide, all written for the second marriage of the Holy Roman emperor Joseph II in 1765. The opera-serenade La corona, written in the same year, was not performed owing to court mourning for the death of the emperor Francis I. In Florence on Feb. 22, 1767, Gluck gave performances of his festival opera Il prologo, together with T. Traetta’s Ifigenia in Tauride; La Vestale, a revised version of L’innocenza giustificata of 1755, followed in Vienna in 1768; and in Parma in 1769 he presented Le feste d’Apollo.

On Aug. 1, 1772, the Paris Opéra was encouraged to stage Gluck’s newly completed opera, Iphigénie en Aulide (the text, after Racine’s tragedy, was by François-Louis Leblanc, bailli Du Roullet); and, as Gluck had undertaken to transform the genial Italian style to the more serious opera cultivated by French composers as well as to provide six more similar operas, he went to Paris in the autumn of 1773. The performances of Iphigénie on April 19, 1774, and of the French version of Orfeo in the summer of the same year met with tremendous success. In Vienna, Gluck was appointed official court composer, but he soon took leave to return to Paris, where the new version of L’Arbre enchanté in 1775 brought him little success, and the completely rewritten Cythère assiégée proved a failure. The French version of Alceste, which was produced during his third visit to Paris on April 23, 1776, also met with disapproval. Deeply distressed by this and the death of his niece, Marianne, Gluck left Paris in May 1776 and returned to Vienna.

In Paris, Gluck left both friends and enemies, who began to form two opposing parties: his adherents, the Gluckists, under the leadership of the French writers and music critics François Arnaud and Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, and his opponents, called Piccinnists after the Italian composer N. Piccinni, who had been prevailed upon to come to Paris in the summer of 1776 to write opera in opposition to Gluck’s style. The struggle, which reached its full fury in 1777, never drew either Gluck or Piccinni into active participation in the dispute. Gluck, in Vienna, had completed Armide but had destroyed his sketches for Roland on hearing that Piccinni was setting the same text for Paris. At the end of May 1777, Gluck returned to Paris.

At the first performance of Armide on Sept. 23, 1777, the war of the theatres reached a climax, but soon after the performance of Piccinni’s Roland on Jan. 27, 1778, the struggle abated again. Gluck retired to Vienna, and his last visit to Paris began at the end of 1778, where he arrived with his two latest completed dramatic works, Iphigénie en Tauride and Écho et Narcisse. The performance of Iphigénie on May 18, 1779, brought him his greatest success in Paris, but Écho (which was first performed on Sept. 24, 1779) met with little appreciation. Gluck, who had suffered a stroke during the rehearsals of Écho, left Paris for the last time at the beginning of October 1779.

Gluck’s great French “reform operas” are more strongly governed by the principle of contrast than are the Italian works; the declamatory style of the vocal line is more marked than in the Viennese operas, and the power and orchestral colour are more intense. The works are constructed in shorter sections, which frequently follow each other without a break, and the spacious conception of the scenes is partly sacrificed in order to achieve a greater degree of dramatic and psychological flexibility.

Gluck spent the last eight years of his life in Vienna and in Perchtoldsdorf nearby, in the care of his wife, continuing to work tirelessly. His attention turned again to F.G. Klopstock’s Hermannsschlacht, which had occupied him as early as 1770. Only a few years before his death he published his Klopstocks Oden und Lieder (seven numbers), which must have been written c. 1770. Also in these years he revised Écho et Narcisse and, together with a Viennese poet, J.B. von Alxinger, produced a German version of Iphigénie en Tauride, first performed in Vienna on Oct. 23, 1781, on the occasion of the visit by the Russian grand duke Pavel Petrovich, later Emperor Paul I. At this time the paths of the aging Gluck again crossed those of Mozart, as had already occurred once in Paris; they met on several occasions, but no close personal relationship developed between them. In 1781 Gluck suffered a second stroke, which partly paralyzed him, and his physical powers began to decline. On Nov. 15, 1787, Gluck had a further stroke, from which he died. Two days later he was buried in the central cemetery in Vienna amid general mourning.

During Gluck’s lifetime, and in the perceptions of the next generation, he was seen to play a central role in the forging of a new operatic style. Thus, E.T.A. Hoffmann ranked him among the Romantics. Many, however, starting with Handel (as noted above), have found his technique severely flawed and credit his central achievements principally to his adventurous collaborators, Angiolini and Calzabigi. Perhaps, as has been suggested, his musical failings served the needs of these and other reform sensibilities (including his own) better than a more accomplished technique might have. Despite the unevenness of his work, there are countless moments in Gluck that rank among the most powerful and affecting in all of opera, e.g., “Che farò senza Euridice” in Orfeo and “O malheureuse Iphigénie” in Iphigénie en Tauride. Although he had no great successors (for he was soon overshadowed by Mozart, who pursued a much different path), his historical position is assured through his efforts to overturn the outmoded conventions of opera seria without destroying the genre itself and through the model his reform movement would provide later operatic reformers.

Gerhard Croll

Encyclopædia Britannica



Born in Bohemia, Gluck was one of nine children of a forester. The family's itinerant existence was not to Gluck's liking, and at the age of 13, denied parental support for his musical ambitions, he ran away to Prague, earning his keep by playing at rural dances and singing in churches. In time his father recognized Gluck's love of music and gave him some support. At the age of 21 he was employed as a musician to Prince Melzi in Vienna. Following the Prince's marriage in 1737 the household, including Gluck, moved to Milan.

This was a wonderful opportunity for the young composer, who had been spellbound by Italian opera in Prague. He became a pupil of the composer Giovanni Battista Sammartini, and after four years of study wrote his first opera, Artaserse, to a libretto by Pietro Mctastasio. It opened the season at the Teatro Regio Ducal in Milan and was an instant success. Commissions for operas flooded in.

After three hectic years Gluck left Italy for England in 1745. The second of the Jacobite revolts had left London subdued, but Gluck was nonetheless commissioned by the Italian Opera of London to create two operas — in direct competition with projects by Handel. Gluck's operas were relatively successful, though Handel commented that Gluck knew no more about counterpoint than his cook. Before Gluck left London he took part in two concerts playing the glass harmonica, a popular fairground instrument. Tapping 20 or more partly filled water glasses, he captivated his audience with the delicacy of sound.

In 1746 he took up an appointment to conduct Pietro Mingotti's Italian opera company, and travelled with them in Austria and Denmark over the next few years. He settled in Vienna in 1750 and married a successful merchant's daughter, Maria Anna Bergin. The Empress Maria Theresa appointed him Kapellmeister in 1754, a post he held for more than 15 years. During this time Gluck developed his ideas for the reform of opera. Orfeo ed Euridice (first performed, in Italian, in 1762) exemplifies these ideas, chief among them that music should be subjugated to the demands of the text. In addition, Gluck gave a more central role to the chorus. In the introduction to Akeste, another "reform" opera, Gluck made explicit his revolutionary theories. First performed in an Italian version in Vienna in 1767, Akeste, like Orfeo, has a classical theme. The chorus plays a particularly significant part and is given a character of its own, representing the people of Thessaly. Greatly revised, the opera was presented in Paris in a French version in 1776: both versions were hugely successful.

Gluck moved to Paris in 1773. It was here that he composed Iphigenie en Aulide in 1774, Armide in Mil, and Iphigenie en Tauride in 1778, all of which show his increasing mastery of dramatic form. He eventually retired to Vienna, -where he lived in some luxury until his death.

"Orpheus and Eurydice" - 1762
Orfeo ed Euridice (French version: Orphée et Eurydice; English translation: Orpheus and Eurydice) is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. The piece was first performed at Vienna on 5 October 1762. Orfeo ed Euridice is the first of Gluck's "reform" operas, in which he attempted to replace the abstruse plots and overly complex music of opera seria with a "noble simplicity" in both the music and the drama.

The opera is the most popular of Gluck's works, and one of the most influential on subsequent German opera. Variations on its plot – the underground rescue-mission in which the hero must control, or conceal, his emotions – include Mozart's The Magic Flute, Beethoven's Fidelio and Wagner's Das Rheingold.

Though originally set to an Italian libretto, Orfeo ed Euridice owes much to the genre of French opera, particularly in its use of accompanied recitative and a general absence of vocal virtuosity. Indeed, twelve years after the 1762 premiere, Gluck re-adapted the opera to suit the tastes of a Parisian audience at the Académie Royale de Musique with a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline. This reworking was given the title Orphée et Eurydice, and several alterations were made in vocal casting and orchestration to suit French tastes.

Francesco Algarotti's Essay on the Opera (1755) was a major influence in the development of Gluck's reformist ideology. Algarotti proposed a heavily simplified model of opera seria, with the drama pre-eminent, instead of the music or ballet or staging. The drama itself should "delight the eyes and ears, to rouse up and to affect the hearts of an audience, without the risk of sinning against reason or common sense". Algarotti's ideas influenced both Gluck and his librettist, Calzabigi. Calzabigi was himself a prominent advocate of reform, and he stated: "If Mr Gluck was the creator of dramatic music, he did not create it from nothing. I provided him with the material or the chaos, if you like. We therefore share the honour of that creation."

Other influences included the composer Niccolò Jommelli and his maître de ballet at Stuttgart, Jean-Georges Noverre. Noverre's Lettres sur la danse (1760) called for dramatic effect over acrobatic ostentation; Noverre was himself influenced by the operas of Rameau and the acting style of David Garrick. The considerable quantity of ballet in Orfeo ed Euridice is thought to be due to his influence. Jommelli himself was noted for his blending of all aspects of the production: ballet, staging, and audience.

Title page of the original full score of
Gluck's 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice



Act 1
A chorus of nymphs and shepherds join Orfeo around the tomb of his wife Euridice in a solemn chorus of mourning; Orfeo is only able to utter Euridice's name (Chorus and Orfeo: "Ah, se intorno"/"Ah! Dans ce bois"). Orfeo sends the others away and sings of his grief in the aria "Chiamo il mio ben"/"Objet de mon amour", the three verses of which are preceded by expressive recitatives. This technique was extremely radical at the time and indeed proved overly so for those who came after Gluck: Mozart chose to retain the unity of the aria. Amore (Cupid) appears, telling Orfeo that he may go to the Underworld and return with his wife on the condition that he not look at her until they are back on earth (1774 only: aria by Amour, "Si les doux accords"). As encouragement, Amore informs Orfeo that his present suffering shall be short-lived with the aria "Gli sguardi trattieni"/"Soumis au silence". Orfeo resolves to take on the quest. In the 1774 version only he delivers an ariette ("L'espoir renaît dans mon âme") in the older, showier, Italian style, originally composed for an occasional entertainment, Il Parnaso confuso (1765), and subsequently re-used in another one, Le feste d'Apollo (1769).

Act 2
In a rocky landscape, the Furies refuse to admit Orfeo to the Underworld, and sing of Cerberus, its canine guardian ("Chi mai dell’Erebo"/"Quel est l'audacieux"). When Orfeo, accompanied by his lyre (represented in the opera by a harp), begs for pity in the aria "Deh placatevi con me"/"Laissez-vous toucher", he is at first interrupted by cries of "No!"/"Non!" from the Furies, but they are eventually softened by the sweetness of his singing in the arias "Mille pene"/"Ah! La flamme and "Men tiranne"/"La tendresse", and let him in ("Ah, quale incognito affetto"/"Quels chants doux"). In the 1774 version, the scene ends with the "Dance of the Furies" (No. 28).

The second scene opens in Elysium. The brief ballet of 1762 became the four-movement "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" (with a prominent part for solo flute) in 1774. This is followed (1774 only) by a solo which celebrates happiness in eternal bliss ("Cet asile"), sung by either an unnamed Spirit or Euridice, and repeated by the chorus. Orfeo arrives and marvels at the purity of the air in an arioso ("Che puro ciel"/"Quel nouveau ciel"). But he finds no solace in the beauty of the surroundings, for Euridice is not yet with him. He implores the spirits to bring her to him, which they do (Chorus: "Torna, o bella"/"Près du tendre objet").

Act 3
On the way out of Hades, Euridice is delighted to be returning to earth, but Orfeo, remembering the condition related by Amore in Act I, lets go of her hand and refusing to look at her, does not explain anything to her. She does not understand his action and reproaches him, but he must suffer in silence (Duet: "Vieni, appaga il tuo consorte"/"Viens, suis un époux"). Euridice takes this to be a sign that he no longer loves her, and refuses to continue, concluding that death would be preferable. She sings of her grief at Orfeo's supposed infidelity in the aria "Che fiero momento"/"Fortune ennemie" (in 1774, there is a brief duet before the reprise). Unable to take any more, Orfeo turns and looks at Euridice; again, she dies. Orfeo sings of his grief in the famous aria "Che farò senza Euridice?"/"J’ai perdu mon Eurydice" ("What shall I do without Euridice?"/"I have lost my Euridice")

Orfeo decides he will kill himself to join Euridice in Hades, but Amore returns to stop him (1774 only: Trio: "Tendre Amour"). In reward for Orfeo's continued love, Amore returns Euridice to life, and she and Orfeo are reunited. After a four-movement ballet, all sing in praise of Amore ("Trionfi Amore"). In the 1774 version, the chorus ("L’Amour triomphe") precedes the ballet, to which Gluck had added three extra movements.

Performance history
The opera was first performed in Vienna at the Burgtheater on 5 October 1762, for the name-day celebrations of the Emperor Francis I. The production was supervised by the reformist theatre administrator, Count Giacomo Durazzo. Choreography was by Gasparo Angiolini, and set designs were by Giovanni Maria Quaglio, both leading members of their fields. The first Orfeo was the famous castrato Gaetano Guadagni. Orfeo was revived in Vienna during the following year, but then not performed until 1769. For the performances that took place in London in 1770, Guadagni sang the role of Orpheus, but little of the music bore any relation to Gluck's original, with J.C. Bach – "the English Bach" – providing most of the new music. Haydn conducted a performance of the Italian version at Eszterháza in 1776. During the early 19th century, Adolphe Nourrit became particularly well known for his performances of Orpheus at the Paris Opera. In 1854 Franz Liszt conducted the work at Weimar, composing a symphonic poem of his own to replace Gluck's original overture. Typically during the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, the role of Orfeo was sung by a female contralto, and noted interpreters of the role from this time include Dame Clara Butt and Kathleen Ferrier, and the mezzo-sopranos Rita Gorr, Marilyn Horne, Dame Janet Baker, Susanne Marsee, and Risë Stevens (at the Metropolitan Opera). Among conductors, Arturo Toscanini was a notable proponent of the opera. His November 1952 radio broadcast of Act II was eventually released on both LP and CD.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Orfeo Melody
De Profundis
H. WILLIBALD GLUCK - 1762- Orfeo ed Euridice

Orfeo ed Euridice

R. Jacobs
M. Kweksilber
M. Falewicz

Collegium Vocale

La Petite Bande

Dirección: Sigiswald Kuijken

Gluck - Orfeo ed Euridice (Leppard)
Ópera Orfeu e Eurídice, de Cristoph Willibald Glück. Versão apresentada pela Filarmônica de Londres, no Glyndebourne Festival de Opera, com texto original de Ranieiri De' Calzabigi, produzida por Peter Hall, coreografias de Stauart Hopps e direção de Raymond Leppard. Essa versão foi filmada em 1982 e editada para video.
Gluck - Orphee et Eurydice - Kozena
Dtor. Giampaolo Bisanti
Iphigenie en Aulide - 1774

The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia by Tiepolo
Iphigénie en Aulide (Iphigeneia in Aulis) is an opera in three acts by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the first work he wrote for the Paris stage. The libretto was written by Leblanc du Roullet and was based on Jean Racine's tragedy Iphigénie. It was premiered on 19 April 1774 by the Paris Opéra in the second Salle du Palais-Royal.

Performance history

At first, Iphigénie was not popular, except for its overture which was applauded generously. After the premiere, it was billed for three days in April of 1774, but its first run was interrupted by the theatre's six-week closure due to the dying of Louis XV.[1] Iphigénie en Aulide returned to the theatre on 10 January 1775, and was revived annually from 1776 to 1824 with a few exceptions. During that 50-year span from 1774 to 1824, it was performed in Paris more than 400 times, and eventually turned out to be Gluck’s most frequently performed opera in Paris.

For the 1775 revival, "Gluck revised Iphigénie en Aulide ... introducing the goddess Diana (soprano) at the end of the opera as a dea ex machina, and altering and expanding the divertissements... So, broadly speaking, there are two versions of the opera; but the differences are by no means so great or important as those between Orfeo ed Euridice and Orphée et Euridice or between the Italian and the French Alceste".

In 1847 Richard Wagner presented a revised German version of Gluck's opera, Iphigenia in Aulis, at the court of Dresden. Wagner edited, re-scored and revised the opera significantly including a different ending and some other passages of his own composition. Wagner's version of the opera is available on Eichhorn's 1972 LP recording, and was also revived at the 1984 Waterloo Festival with Alessandra Marc as Iphigenia. Wagner's finale translated back into French was also performed in the 2002/2003 La Scala production conducted by Riccardo Muti

Iphigénie en Aulide was first performed in the United States on 22 February 1935 at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia. The fully staged production was presented by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Alexander Smallens. Directed by Herbert Graf, it used sets by Norman Bel Geddes and starred Georges Baklanoff as Agamemnon, Cyrena van Gordon as Clytemnestre, Rosa Tentoni as Iphigénie, Joseph Bentonelli as Achille, and Leonard Treash as Patrocle.

Calchas, the great seer, prophesies that King Agamemnon must sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, in order to guarantee fair winds for the king's fleet en route to Troy –- a demand that comes from the goddess Diana herself. Throughout the opera, Agamemnon struggles with the terrible choice between sparing his daughter's life and ensuring his subjects' welfare.

Agamemnon summons his daughter to Aulis, the port where the Greek navy is gathering, ostensibly for her to marry Achilles, the great warrior hero. Then, reconsidering his decision to sacrifice her, the king tries to prevent her arriving with the fabricated explanation that Achilles has been unfaithful. Iphigenia, however, has already reached the Greek camp accompanied by her mother Clytemnestra. The two women are dismayed and angered by Achilles’ apparent inconstancy, but he eventually enters declaring his enduring love for the girl, and the first act ends with a tender scene of reconciliation.

The wedding ceremony is due to be celebrated and festivities take place with dances and choruses. When the couple are about to proceed to the temple, however, Arcas, the captain of Agamemnon’s guards, reveals that the king is awaiting his daughter before the altar in order to kill her. Achilles and Clytemnestra rush to save the girl from being sacrificed. Agamemnon finally seems to give up his plan to kill her.

The third act opens with a chorus of Greeks: they object to the king’s decision in case they are never allowed to reach Troy, and demand the ceremony be celebrated. At this point, Iphigenia resigns herself to her fate, and offers her own life for the sake of her people, while Clytemnestra entreats the vengeance of Jupiter upon the ruthless Greeks. As the sacrifice is going to be held, however, Achilles bursts in with his warriors and the opera concludes with Gluck's most significant revision of the original myth: Calchas’ voice rises over the general turmoil and announces that Diana has changed her mind about the sacrifice and consents to the marriage. In the second 1775 version Diana appears personally to consecrate both the wedding and Agamemnon's voyage.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Christoph Willibald Gluck - 1774 - Iphigénie en Aulide - Riccardo Muti - La Scala Orchestra
Christoph Willibald Gluck 1774 Iphigénie en Aulide
Riccardo Muti conducts La Scala Orchestra
Stephen Mark Brown, tenor
Daniela Barcellona, mezzosoprano
Violeta Urman, soprano
Christhopher Robertson, baritono
Iphigenia in Tauris - 1779

Ancient Greek vase showing Orestes and Pylades meeting Iphigenia in Tauris
Iphigénie en Tauride (Iphigenia in Tauris) is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck in four acts. It was his fifth opera for the French stage. The libretto was written by Nicolas-François Guillard.

With Iphigénie, Gluck took his operatic reform to its logical conclusion. The recitatives are shorter and they are récitatif accompagné (i.e. the strings and perhaps other instruments are playing, not just continuo accompaniment). The normal dance movements that one finds in the French tragédie en musique are almost entirely absent. The drama is ultimately based on the play Iphigenia in Tauris by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides which deals with stories concerning the family of Agamemnon in the aftermath of the Trojan War.

Performance history

Iphigénie en Tauride was first performed on 18 May 1779 by the Paris Opéra at the second Salle du Palais-Royal and was a great success. Some think that the head of the Paris Opéra, Devismes, had attempted to stoke up the rivalry between Gluck and Niccolò Piccinni, an Italian composer also resident in the French capital, by asking them both to set an opera on the subject of Iphigenia in Tauris. In the event, Piccinni's Iphigénie en Tauride was not premiered until January 1781 and did not enjoy the popularity that Gluck's work did.

In 1781 Gluck produced a German version of the opera, Iphigenia in Tauris, for the visit of the Russian Grand Duke Paul to Vienna, with the libretto translated and adapted by Johann Baptist von Alxinger in collaboration with the composer. Among the major changes was the transposition of the role of Oreste from baritone to tenor and the replacement of the final chorus of Act 2 with an instrumental movement. The revised version was the only opera Gluck wrote in his native German, and his last work for the stage. Styled “a tragic Singspiel”, it was staged on 23 October 1781 at the Nationalhoftheater, as the emperor Joseph II had had the Burgtheater renamed after dismissing the Italian singers and their orchestra in 1776 and installing German actors in the theatre. When the meagre results achieved by the new Singspiel programmes led the emperor to back down, getting an Italian opera buffa company recruited again and engaging Lorenzo da Ponte as his theatre poet, the latter was charged to prepare an Italian translation of Gluck’s opera, which was staged in the restored Burgtheater, on 14 December 1783. The German edition was revived in Berlin at the former Königliches Nationaltheater in the Gendarmenmarkt on 24 February 1795, while Da Ponte’s translation was chosen for the London first performance at the King's Theatre on 7 April 1796. The original French version eventually proved to be one of Gluck’s most popular composition in Paris: “it was billed on 35 dates in 1779, and it went on to enjoy more than four hundred representations in 1781-93, 1797-1808, 1812-18, 1821-23, 1826-28, and 1829. It was mounted at the Châtelet (1868), the Renaissance (1899), and the Opéra-Comique (1900). It was brought to the stage of the present opera house in Paris on 27 June 1931 with the aid of the Wagner Society of Amsterdam and with Pierre Monteux conducting the orchestra”.

In 1889 Richard Strauss made a new arrangement of the work for the publisher Adolph Fürstner, which was later staged in Weimar at the Hoftheater on 9 June 1900, under the Goethe-inspired title of Iphigenie auf Tauris. Strauss’s version was quite often performed at the beginning of the twentieth century and was also used for the work’s première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1916, but is by now rarely heard. It was recorded in 1961 with Montserrat Caballé in the title role and was recently revived at the 2009 Festival della Valle d'Itria at Martina Franca.

As for the Da Ponte Italian version, there was a “memorable” staging at the Teatro alla Scala in 1957, with Nino Sanzogno conducting the orchestra, Luchino Visconti as the director and Maria Callas in the title role. The performance of 1 June was also recorded live and is now available in CD.

Title page of the German libretto of Iphigénie en Tauride


Act 1
Scene: The entrance hall of the temple of Diana in Tauris.

There is no overture; the opera begins with a short passage evoking calm before turning into a depiction of a great storm at sea. Iphigenia, sister of Orestes, is the high priestess of Diana in the temple of Tauris, having been transported there magically by the goddess when her father Agamemnon attempted to offer her as a sacrifice. Iphigenia and her priestesses beg the gods to protect them from the storm (Grands dieux! soyez nous secourables).

Although the storm dies down, Iphigenia remains troubled by a dream she has had, in which she envisioned her mother Clytaemnestra murdering her father, then her brother Orestes killing her mother, and finally her own hand stabbing her brother. She prays to Diana to reunite her with Orestes (Ô toi qui prolongeas mes jours). Thoas, King of Tauris, enters. He too is obsessed with dark thoughts (De noirs pressentiments): the oracles, he tells her, predict doom for him if a single stranger escapes with his life. (The custom of the Scythians, who inhabit Tauris, is to ritually sacrifice any who are shipwrecked on their shores).

A chorus of Scythians comes bringing news of two young Greeks who have just been found shipwrecked, demanding their blood (Il nous fallait du sang). After Iphigenia and the priestesses depart, Thoas brings in the Greeks, who turn out to be Orestes and his friend Pylades. After asking them for what purpose they came (they have come to retrieve Diana's statue and return it to Greece, though they do not divulge this), Thoas promises them death and has them taken away.

Act 2
Scene: An inner chamber of the temple

Orestes and Pylades languish in chains. Orestes berates himself for causing the death of his dear friend (Dieux qui me poursuivez), but Pylades assures him that he does not feel dispirited because they will die united (Unis dès la plus tendre enfance). A minister of the sanctuary comes to remove Pylades. Orestes half falls asleep (Le calme rentre dans mon coeur), but he is tormented by visions of the Furies, who wish to avenge his slaying of his mother (whom Orestes killed for murdering his father Agamemnon).

Iphigenia enters and, although the two do not recognize each other, Orestes sees an astonishing likeness between her and the slain Clytaemnestra seen in his dream. She questions him further, asking him the fate of Agamemnon and all Greece, and he tells her of Agamemnon's murder by his wife, and the wife's murder by her son. In agitation, she asks of the fate of the son, and Orestes says that the son found the death he had long sought, and that only their sister Electra remains alive. Iphigenia sends Orestes away and with her priestesses laments the destruction of her country and the supposed death of her brother (Ô malheureuse Iphigénie). She and the priestesses perform a funeral ceremony for Orestes (Contemplez ces tristes apprêts).

Act 3
Scene: Iphigenia's chamber

Iphigenia is drawn to the stranger who reminds her of her brother Orestes (D'une image, hélas! trop chérie). She tells Orestes and Pylades she can persuade Thoas to save one of them from the sacrifice (Je pourrais du tyran tromper la barbarie) and asks the one who is spared to carry word news of her fate to her sister Electra in Argos. Both men readily agree, and Iphigenia chooses Orestes to survive.

But on her exit, Orestes insists that Pylades agree to switch places with him as Orestes cannot bear the thought of his friend's death and sees dying as an escape from his own madness; Pylades, on the contrary, is glad at the thought of dying so Orestes can live (Duet: Et tu prétends encore que tu m'aimes and aria for Pylades: Ah! mon ami, j'implore ta pitié!). When Iphigenia returns, Orestes insists that she reverse her decision, threatening to kill himself before her eyes if she does not. Reluctantly, she agrees to spare Pylades instead and sends him to carry her message to Electra. Everyone but Pylades departs, and he closes the act by promising to do everything possible to save Orestes (Divinité des grandes âmes!).

Act 4
Scene: Inside the temple of Diana

Iphigenia wonders how she can ever carry out the killing of Orestes, since somehow her soul shrinks from the thought of it. She asks the goddess Diana to help her steel herself for the task (Je t'implore et je tremble). The priestesses bring in Orestes, who has been prepared for sacrifice (Chorus: Ô Diane, sois nous propice). He tells her not to lament him, but to strike, telling her it is the will of the gods. The priestesses sing a hymn to Diana as they lead Orestes to the altar (Chorus: Chaste fille de Latone). While she wields the knife, Orestes exclaims Iphigenia's name, leading her and the priestesses to recognize him and stop the ritual slaughter.

The happy reunion of sister and brother is cut short at news that Thoas is coming, having heard that one of the captives was released and intent on the blood of the other. The king enters wildly, ordering his guards to seize Orestes and promising to sacrifice both him and his sister. At that moment Pylades enters with a band of Greeks, cutting down Thoas where he stands.

The resulting rout of the Scythians by the Greeks is halted by a dea ex machina appearance of Diana, who commands the Scythians to restore her statue to Greece (Arrêtez! Écoutez mes décrets éternels). She also issues pardon to Orestes for murdering his mother, sending him to be king over Mycenae and bidding him restore Iphigenia to her country. As Diana is carried back into the clouds, everyone sings a concluding chorus of rejoicing at having the favor of earth and heaven restored to them (Les dieux, longtemps en courroux).

The ultimate source of the drama was Euripides' tragedy Iphigenia in Tauris. Because of its simplicity and heroic themes this work had a particular appeal for 18th-century proponents of Neo-classicism and there were several dramatic versions in the late 1700s, the most famous of which is Goethe's Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787). However, the most important as far as Gluck is concerned - because it formed the basis of Guillard's libretto - is Guimond de la Touche's spoken tragedy, which premiered in Paris on 4 June 1757. De la Touche's play was such a success that it was transferred to Vienna in 1761. It contributed to a vogue for the Tauris story in the city. In 1763 a "reform opera" on the subject by Tommaso Traetta with a libretto by Marco Coltellini, Ifigenia in Tauride, appeared on the Viennese stage. Coltellini's and Traetta's ideas on how to reform opera were similar to Gluck's and Gluck himself conducted the work in 1767. Gluck may have wanted to compose his own reform opera on the Tauris theme but Traetta's opera made this impossible for the time being. Instead, in 1765 Gluck composed a ballet, Sémiramis, which has many points in common with it and he reused some of the music from Sémiramis in Iphigénie en Tauride.

It was only after he moved to Paris that Gluck finally had the opportunity to set the Tauris story and then only after he had composed another opera on the Iphigenia theme, Iphigénie en Aulide (1774). Beginning work in 1778, Gluck collaborated closely with the young poet Nicolas-François Guillard, who based his libretto on Guimond de la Touche's play. De la Touche's work had been praised for its simplicity, but Gluck and his librettist simplified the drama even further. Their main innovations were to begin the opera with a storm (which would have been more difficult in a spoken drama) and to delay the recognition until the finale.

Iphigénie en Tauride was an innovative libretto in the history of opera. Michael Ewans has commented, "Gluck's most radical 'reform opera' even dispenses with a love interest. Romantic interest is peripheral to Greek drama, but Iphigénie en Tauride, 'the first opera without love to exist in our theatres', must be one of the few major operas to forego the theme altogether."


Gluck's borrowings
The borrowings Gluck made in this, his last significant opera, are numerous, and many scholars feel that they constitute a "summing up" of the artistic ideals he pursued throughout his career as a composer. Recycling music was common practice among 18th century composers. Gluck knew that his earlier Italian-language operas and the ballets and opéras comiques he had written for Vienna were never likely to be played again, whereas the French had a tradition of keeping successful operas in the repertory. Recycling was thus a way of saving some of his most outstanding musical ideas. Most of the reused music is Gluck's own, culled from his earlier operas or from his ballet Sémiramis. In at least one case, however, an aria in Iphigénie en Tauride is actually Gluck borrowing from himself borrowing from Johann Sebastian Bach. This is a complete list of Gluck's borrowings:

- Introduction: Overture from L'île de Merlin, featuring a storm followed by a calm. Gluck's major innovation was to reverse the order of the movements so the opera opens with the calm which then turns into a storm (Iphigénie en Tauride has no overture as such).
- Aria Dieux qui me poursuivez from Telemaco (Aria:Non dirmi ch'io)
- Music for the Furies in Act 2 from the ballet Sémiramis
- Act 2 aria O malheureuse Iphigénie from La clemenza di Tito (Aria: Se mai senti spirarti sul volto)
- Act 2 chorus: Contemplez ces tristes apprêts from the middle section of the same aria
- Aria Je t'implore et je tremble, inspired (consciously or unconsciously) by the gigue of the Partita no. 1 in B Flat (BWV 825) by Bach, originally appeared as the aria Perchè, se tanti siete in Gluck's Antigono
- Some music in the climactic final scene of Act 4 was taken from Sémiramis
- Final chorus (Les dieux, longtemps en courroux) from Paride ed Elena (Chorus: Vieni al mar)

Innovative features

Unusually for a French opera, Iphigénie contains only one short divertissement (an opportunity for dance and spectacle): the chorus and dance of the Scythians in the "Turkish" style at the end of the first act. This was so out of the ordinary that, after the first five performances, the authorities of the Paris Opéra added ballet music by Gossec to the finale.

The opera contains "Gluck's most famous piece of psychological instrumentation", "Le calme rentre dans mon cœur". As Donald Grout describes it: "Orestes, left alone after Pylades has been arrested by the temple guards, falls into a half stupor; in pitiable self-delusion he tries to encourage the feeling of peace that descends on him momentarily, singing Le calme rentre dans mon cœur. But the accompaniment, with a subdued, agitated, sixteenth-note reiteration of one tone, and with a sforzando accent at the first beat of every measure, betrays the troubled state of his mind, from which he cannot banish the pangs of remorse for his past crime. It is perhaps the first occurrence in opera of this device of using the orchestra to reveal the inward truth of a situation, in distinction from, even in contradiction to, the words of the text - a practice that Wagner was later to incorporate into a complete system." When a critic complained about the contradiction between Orestes' words and the musical accompaniment, Gluck replied: "He's lying: he killed his mother."

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gluck - Iphigénie en Tauride - Minkowski, 2011 (complet - ST fr-eng-de)
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) - Iphigénie en Tauride, tragédie en 4 actes (1779)
Livret français : Guillard, d'après Latouche et Euripide (ST français, english, deutsch)
De Nederlandse Opera - septembre 2011
Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble - Dir. : Marc Minkowski
Mise en scène : Pierre Audi

Iphigénie : Mireille Delunsch
Thoas : Laurent Alvaro
Oreste : Jean-François Lapointe
Pylade : Yann Beuron
Diane : Salomé Haller
Première prêtresse : Simone Riksman
Seconde prêtresse : Rosanne van Sandwijk
Un Scythe : Peter Arink
Un ministre du temple : Harry Teeuwen

Alceste - 1767
Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestis. By Frederick Leighton
Alceste, Wq. 37 (the later French version is Wq. 44), is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1767. The libretto (in Italian) was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place on 26 December 1767 at the Burgtheater in Vienna.

Preface and reforms

When Calzabigi published Alceste, he added a preface signed by Gluck, which set out their ideals for operatic reform. The opera displays the features set out in this manifesto, namely:

no da capo arias
little or no opportunity for vocal improvisation or virtuosic displays of vocal agility or power
no long melismas
a more predominantly syllabic setting of the text to make the words more intelligible
far less repetition of text within an aria
a blurring of the distinction between recitative and aria, declamatory and lyrical passages, with altogether less recitative
accompanied rather than secco recitative
simpler, more flowing melodic lines
an overture that is linked by theme or mood to the ensuing action
more prominence for the chorus, giving it, in imitation of classical Greek drama, an important role commenting on the events unfolding on the stage.
Alceste also has no role for the castrato voice, although Gluck would return to using a castrato in his next opera, Paride ed Elena, and even rewrite the tenor role of Admetus for the soprano castrato Giuseppe Millico, in the 1770 revival of Alceste in Vienna. In 1774, while travelling through Paris, he was also called upon to perform in private the French version of Orphée et Eurydice (with Gluck himself at the harpsichord) before it was premiered at the Opéra

Performance history

The second of Gluck's so-called "reform operas" (after Orfeo ed Euridice), it was first performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 26 December 1767. A heavily revised version with a French libretto by Leblanc du Roullet premiered in Paris on 23 April 1776 in the second Salle du Palais-Royal. The opera is usually given in the revised version, although this is sometimes translated into Italian. Both versions are in three acts.

Revised for presentation in Paris, Alceste became an essentially new work, the translation from Italian to French necessitating several changes in the musical declamation of text, with certain scenes significantly reorganized with new or altered music. Some of the changes were made upon the advice of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of Gluck's greatest French admirers. The bulk of the libretto adaptation, however, was made by French aristocrat Le Blanc du Roullet, with improvements by the composer.

Gluck fought several efforts to make the new version of Alceste conform to French tastes, resisting pressure to end the opera with an extended ballet. The new libretto does, however, introduce several subsidiary characters for dramatic variety, and, following the example of Euripides, on whose work the libretto is loosely based, even calls in Hercules in the final act.

In Don Giovanni, written in 1787, twenty years after Alceste and the year Gluck died, Mozart used exactly the same chord progression for the Commendatore speaking to Don Giovanni in the garden scene that Gluck used for the line of the High Priest when saying that Alceste will die if no one takes her place. Hector Berlioz notes how this section of Don Giovanni is "heavily in-inspired or rather plagiarized". Berlioz further discusses the authenticity of some of the arias. For example, when Gluck went to Vienna, an aria was added to act 3. Berlioz comes to the conclusion that Gluck was under so much pressure that he let it happen. Also, Berlioz notes corrections added by Gluck during rehearsals, and misunderstandings in the score, due to what Berlioz calls Gluck's "happy-go-lucky" style of writing.

Maria Callas starred as Alceste in a production at La Scala in 1954 which was recorded. It was her first collaboration in a stage performance with director Luchino Visconti.

The Metropolitan Opera has presented Alceste in three different seasons, with four sopranos starring in a total of eighteen performances. The Met premiere of the opera, on 24 January 1941, featured Marjorie Lawrence. There were four more performances that season, two starring Lawrence and two starring Rose Bampton. In the 1951/52 season, Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad sang Alceste in five performances, including her farewell performance with the company on 1 April 1952. On 6 December 1960, Eileen Farrell made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Alceste. She sang the role a total of eight times that season. Her final performance of the role, on 11 February 1961, marks the last time to date that the opera has been performed at the Met.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 1990 season with a performance of Alceste starring Jessye Norman, while Catherine Naglestad appeared in ten performances of Alceste with the Stuttgart State Opera between January and March 2006. It was given by The Santa Fe Opera as part of its summer festival season in August 2009 with Christine Brewer in the title role.

The first UK performance took place at the King's Theatre, London in 1795. More recent productions have included those in Scotland at Ledlanet in 1972 and by Scottish Opera in 1974.

The Death of Alcestis by Angelica Kauffman


Act 1
A herald announces to the people of Thessaly that King Admeto is gravely ill and that there is little hope. Evandro calls upon all to pray to the oracle at the temple of Apollo. Alceste joins them and asks Apollo for pity. The oracle says Admeto can be rescued if another voluntarily sacrifices his life. This causes great consternation. Alone, Alceste agonizes whether to give her life for that of her husband

Act 2
In a dense forest dedicated to the gods of the underworld, Ismene asks Alceste why she is leaving her husband and children. Alceste tells Ismene of her intentions. Meanwhile, Admeto has a miraculous recovery to the joy of all Thessaly. Evandro tells him that someone has apparently sacrificed himself for the king. When Alceste appears, he questions her until she confesses. The desperate king hurries into the temple to plead with the gods. However, Alceste says good-bye to the children.

Act 3
The decision of the gods is not revoked. The people lament the approaching death of Alceste. Having said good-bye to Alceste, Admeto decides to follow her into death. Then the heavens open, Apollo descends and proclaims that the gods have given them their lives as a reward for their steadfast love.

Synopsis, with French Version Edits

The overture is stately, noble, and tragic, looking ahead to some of Mozart's minor-key works. The choir propels much of the action in the first two acts, and Gluck's vocal settings are particularly elegant, taking advantage of the French language's smooth rhythms, although the writing is rather static in its sad dignity.

Act 1
King Admetus is dying, and his people are in despair. The god Apollo refuses their animal sacrifice, proclaiming that Admetus will live only if another person is sacrificed in his place. Queen Alceste believes she is the victim Apollo has in mind, but declares she will surrender her life only for love. (Aria: "Divinites du Styx")

Act 2
The people celebrate the king's recovery. Admetus does not realize that Alceste has volunteered to die in his place, and his wife won't give herself up until the record is set straight. When he learns the truth, Admetus believes that Alceste is in effect abandoning him, and would prefer to die himself.

Act 3
The people, sorrowing again, prepare the royal couple's children for sacrifice in their place. Admetus' friend Hercules arrives and promises to conquer death on his behalf, and travels to Hades. Meanwhile, Alceste has already arrived at the gates of hell; Admetus tries to dissuade her, but she is sacrificing herself for love, rather than as some heroic act. She dies, but Hercules rescues her -- except that now Alceste seems nearly insane. Apollo arrives, promises Hercules immortality, and leaves Admetus and Alceste in a world that seems devoid of death. The work ends with a joyful chorus.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Christoph Willibald Gluck 1767 Alceste J E Gardiner
Christoph Willibald Gluck 1765 Telemaco
Ch. W. Gluck: Regensburger Sinfonia in A major (Wq. deest, Chen A 1) / L'Orfeo Barockorchester
Symphony for orchestra in A major (Wq. deest, Chen A 1)

I. Allegro - 0:05
II. Andante - 3:52
III. Allegro - 6:12

L'Orfeo Barockorchester / Michi Gaigg (conductor)

[on authentic instruments]

Gluck - Trio Sonata in C Major
Trio sonata for two violins and basso continuo in C major

1. Largo

2. Presto

3. Poco Allegro

Performed by Musica Antiqua Koln
Directed by Reinhard Goebel

Christoph Willibald Gluck - Danse of the Blessed Spirits
Christoph Willibald Gluck "Reigen seliger Geister"
Das Kammerorchester "Les Violons du Roy"
spielt den Reigen seliger Geister
aus der Oper Orpheus und Euridice
von Christoph Willibald Gluck
CAMERATA POLONIA: Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) - Sinfonie G-Dur

I. Violine

Anna Gutowska (Konzertmeister)
Magdalena Więckowska
Angelika Moskal
Magdalena Biskupska

II. Violine

Mateusz Kasprzak-Łabudziński
Aleksandra Buczek
Julia Ciesielska


Natalia Bińkowska
Rafał Zalech


Agnieszka Kabut
Anna Maria Niemiec


Michał Pistelok

Gluck - Sinfonia em Sol maior
Orquestra de Câmara da Escola de Músca do Estado do Maranhão/ V Encontro de Cordas da EMEM
"Don Juan" - 1761
Don Juan ou Le Festin de Pierre (Don Juan, or the Stone Guest's Banquet) is a ballet with a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi, music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck, and choreography by Gasparo Angiolini. The ballet's first performance was in Vienna, Austria on Saturday, 17 October 1761, at the Theater am Kärntnertor. The ballet follows the legend of Don Juan and his descent into Hell after killing his inamorata's father in a duel.


The ballet Don Juan was based on Molière's Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre of 1665. Gluck's score is perhaps the most considerable written for eighteenth century ballet. The composer's understanding of dance as an autonomous art form completely independent of opera permitted him to compose a score free of conventional rhetoric or ornament, and utilized a structure that built toward an exciting and dramatically direct climax.

While choreographer Angiolini's rival Jean-Georges Noverre composed ballets in Stuttgart, London, and Paris based on heroic gesture inspired, in part, by the plastique of David Garrick in England, Angiolini's passi d'azione in Vienna (prompted by the concepts explored by Franz Hilverding and Gluck) accented dancing itself. Angiolini and Noverre never agreed on the place of music in ballet. Angiolini regarded music and dance as two separate components that the dancer was required to unite in his own body. Noverre disagreed and declared that a musical score would pre-set and manipulate the actions and movements of the performer. The protagonist would translate music into transparent gesture.

Plot summary
The overture is a short sonata form sinfonietta in which the recurring motif of threatening trumpets plays a prominent part. The ballet's setting is Madrid. In the first act, Don Juan serenades Donna Elvira beneath her balcony. Her father, the Commander enters with sword drawn to protect his daughter. In the ensuing duel, Don Juan wounds the Commander, who rallies, attacks, then faints and dies. In the second act, Don Juan has prepared a banquet for his friends. Dances for his guests include a gavotte, contredanse, minuet, and fandango. A terrific knocking is suddenly heard at the door. Don Juan's servant provides comic relief as he scurries back and forth to the door. Don Juan finally opens the door, and discovers the marble statue of the dead Commander. He invites the Commander to dinner, but the statue invites Juan to dine at his tomb and then departs to the strains of a noble minuet. The final act is set in a graveyard where Don Juan rushes in accompanied by orchestral shivers. The Commander steps from his tomb to a stately minuet and scolds Juan accompanied by echoes of the dinner invitation. Juan confronts the Commander with frivolity, vanity, and courage, but the climax is reached when irrevocable judgment is passed upon Juan. To the strains of an ominous passacaglia, graves fly open, flames rise, and Juan sinks to Hell.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ch. W. Gluck with G. Angiolini - Don Juan ou Le Festin de Pierre (1761)
DON JUAN OU LE FESTIN DE PIERRE (Don Juan, or the Stone Guest's Banquet)
Ballet for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, strings & continuo (bassoon, cello, bass, keyboard) in D major (Wq. 52) by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck.

First performance was in Vienna, 17 Oct 1761, at the Theater am Kärntnertor.

Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi.
Choreographer: Gasparo Angiolini

I. Sinfonia
II-XXXII. dances

Performed by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
dir. Bruno Weil

Ch. W. Gluck - Semiramis (1765) / Ballet suite for orchestra
SEMIRAMIS (Vienna, 1st Jan 1765)
Ballet for 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings & continuo (Wq. Anh.C/1), by Christoph Willibald Gluck.

Source: Manuscript, n.d.(ca. 1790)

Performed by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
dir. Bruno Weil

C.W. Gluck - Ezio - Extracts
Opera in 3 acts on a libretto by Metastase

Concert version recorded in Poissy Theatre, France, 18 November 2008

Max Emmanuel Cencic, alto : the Emperor Valentiano
Ann Hallenberg, mezzo soprano: Fulvia
Sonia Prina, contralto: Ezio
Mayuko Karasawa, soprano: Onoria
Robert Breault, tenor: Massimo
Julien Pregardien, tenor: Varo

Alan Curtis, conductor

Directed by Michel Swierczewski & Patrice Monnet
English Sub-Titles

"Armide" - 1777

Rinaldo in the garden of Armida, painting by Fragonard
Armide is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, set to a libretto by Philippe Quinault. Gluck's fifth production for the Parisian stage and the composer's own favourite among his works, it was first performed on 23 September 1777 by the Académie Royale de Musique in the second Salle du Palais-Royal in Paris.

Background and performance history

Gluck set the same libretto Philippe Quinault had written for Lully in 1686, based on Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). Gluck seemed at ease in facing French traditions head-on when he composed Armide. Lully and Quinault were the very founders of serious opera in France and Armide was generally recognized as their masterpiece, so it was a bold move on Gluck's part to write new music to Quinault's words. A similar attempt to write a new opera to the libretto of Thésée by Jean Joseph de Mondonville in 1765 had ended in disaster, with audiences demanding it be replaced by Lully's original. By utilizing Armide, Gluck challenged the long-standing and apparently inviolable ideals of French practice, and in the process he revealed these values capable of renewal through "modern" compositional sensitivities. Critical response and resultant polemic resulted in one of those grand imbroglios common to French intellectual life. Gluck struck a nerve in French sensitivities, and whereas Armide was not one of his more popular works, it remained a critical touchstone in the French operatic tradition and was warmly praised by Berlioz in his Memoirs. Gluck also set a minor fashion for resetting Lully/Quinault operas: Gluck's rival Piccinni followed his example with Roland in 1778 and Atys in 1780; in the same year, Philidor produced a new Persée; and Gossec offered his version of Thésée in 1782. Gluck himself is said to have been working on an opera based on Roland, but he abandoned it when he heard Piccinni had taken on the same libretto.

The first modern revival of Armide was presented at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra (now named the Opéra National de Paris) in 1905 with Lucienne Bréval in the title role. Other cast members included Alice Verlet, Agustarello Affré, Dinh Gilly, and Geneviève Vix.

For the storyline, see Armide by Lully. Gluck kept the libretto unchanged, although he cut the allegorical prologue and added a few lines of his own devising to the end of Act Three. Similarly, the roles and the disposition of the voices are the same as in Lully's opera.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gluck - Armide (1/17) Innsbruck 1985 Overture Dans un jour de triomphe
Conductor Alan Curtis
Gluck - Armide Con Montserrat Caballé; Lindroos, Szirmay, Baquerizo; Ramin 1985 Madrid.
"Paride ed Elena" - 1770

Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) is an opera by Gluck Christoph Willibald, the third and final of his Italian reformist works, following Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste. Like its predecessors, its libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. The opera tells the story of the events between the Judgment of Paris and the flight of Paris and Helen to Troy. It was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 3 November 1770.


Jacques-Louis David - The Loves of Paris and Helen

The hero Paris is in Sparta, having chosen Aphrodite above Hera and Athena, sacrificing to Aphrodite and seeking, with the encouragement of Erasto, the love of Helen. Paris and Helen meet at her royal palace and each is struck by the other's beauty. She calls on him to judge an athletic contest and when asked to sing he does so in praise of her beauty, admitting the purpose of his visit is to win her love. She dismisses him. In despair Paris now pleads with her, and she begins to give way. Eventually, through the intervention of Erasto, who now reveals himself as Cupid, she gives way, but Pallas Athene (Athena) now warns them of sorrow to come. In the final scene Paris and Helen make ready to embark for Troy.

Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) is the third of Gluck's so-called reform operas for Vienna, following Alceste (Alcestis) and Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice), and the least often performed of the three. Arias from the opera that enjoy an independent concert existence include Paris's minor-key declaration of love, O del mio dolce ardor (O of my gentle love), in the first act. His second aria is Spiagge amate (Beloved shores). In the second act, again in a minor key, Paris fears that he may lose Helen in Le belle imagini (The fair semblance) and in the fourth would prefer death to life without Helen, Di te scordarmi, e vivere (To forget you and to live). The rôle of Paris offers difficulties of casting, written, as it was, for a relatively high castrato voice. Arias of Paris have been adapted by tenors, with transposition an octave lower, or appropriated by sopranos and mezzo-sopranos.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sumi Jo - Gluck - Paride Ed Elena - O Del Mio Dolce Ardor
This aria is from Gluck's Opera, 'Paride ed Elena'. Sumi Jo recored it at her Erato Album, 'Caro mio ben; My Favorite Italian Songs.'

Piano - Vincenzo Scalera

Gluck - O del mio dolce ardor por Teresa Berganza.flv
Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787) , "O del mio dolce ardor", de la ópera "Paride ed Elena" (1770) con libreto de Raniero de' Calzabigi (1714-1795)
  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks