Christoph Willibald Gluck
Overview
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (2 July 1714 in Erasbach near Berching
Berching
Berching is a town in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany.Berching is a historical town with a fully preserved town wall and low streamlet. The first settlement was registered in 883, so that it is more than 1100 years old. is located in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany. It is...

 (Upper Palatinate
Upper Palatinate
The Upper Palatinate is one of the seven administrative regions of Bavaria, Germany, located in the east of Bavaria.- History :The region took its name first in the early 16th century, because it was by the Treaty of Pavia one of the main portions of the territory of the Wittelsbach Elector...

) 15 November 1787 in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

) was an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of the early classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years. With a series of radical new works in the 1760s, among them Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice 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...

and Alceste
Alceste (Gluck)
Alceste is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1767. The libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place in Vienna.-Preface and reforms:...

, he broke the stranglehold that Metastasian
Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

 opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

had enjoyed for much of the century.

The strong influence of French opera
French Opera
French opera is one of Europe's most important operatic traditions, containing works by composers of the stature of Rameau, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen...

 in these works encouraged Gluck to move to Paris, which he did in November 1773.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (2 July 1714 in Erasbach near Berching
Berching
Berching is a town in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany.Berching is a historical town with a fully preserved town wall and low streamlet. The first settlement was registered in 883, so that it is more than 1100 years old. is located in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany. It is...

 (Upper Palatinate
Upper Palatinate
The Upper Palatinate is one of the seven administrative regions of Bavaria, Germany, located in the east of Bavaria.- History :The region took its name first in the early 16th century, because it was by the Treaty of Pavia one of the main portions of the territory of the Wittelsbach Elector...

) 15 November 1787 in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

) was an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of the early classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years. With a series of radical new works in the 1760s, among them Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice 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...

and Alceste
Alceste (Gluck)
Alceste is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1767. The libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place in Vienna.-Preface and reforms:...

, he broke the stranglehold that Metastasian
Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

 opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

had enjoyed for much of the century.

The strong influence of French opera
French Opera
French opera is one of Europe's most important operatic traditions, containing works by composers of the stature of Rameau, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen...

 in these works encouraged Gluck to move to Paris, which he did in November 1773. Fusing the traditions of Italian opera
Italian opera
Italian opera is both the art of opera in Italy and opera in the Italian language. Opera was born in Italy around the year 1600 and Italian opera has continued to play a dominant role in the history of the form until the present day. Many famous operas in Italian were written by foreign composers,...

 and the French national genre into a new synthesis, Gluck wrote eight operas for the Parisian stages. One of the last of these, Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride 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....

, was a great success and is generally acknowledged to be his finest work. Though he was extremely popular and widely credited with bringing about a revolution in French opera, Gluck's mastery of the Parisian operatic scene was never absolute, and after the poor reception of his Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse was the last original opera, specifically a drame lyrique, written by Christoph Willibald Gluck, his sixth for the French stage. The libretto was written by Louis Theodor von Tschudi.-Performance history:...

he left Paris in disgust and returned to Vienna to live out the remainder of his life.

Early years

Gluck was born in Erasbach (now a district of Berching
Berching
Berching is a town in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany.Berching is a historical town with a fully preserved town wall and low streamlet. The first settlement was registered in 883, so that it is more than 1100 years old. is located in the district of Neumarkt in Bavaria, Germany. It is...

, Bavaria) the first of six surviving children. His father, Alexander Johannes, came from a long line of foresters, and married Gluck's mother, Maria Walburga, in about 1711. During 1717 the family moved to Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, where the father became head forester in the service of Prince Philipp Hyazinth von Lobkowitz in 1727. According to J. C. von Mannlich, who shared rooms with Gluck in Paris, it was as a Bohemian schoolboy that Gluck received his first musical training, both as a singer in the church choir and by learning. Gluck later wrote:

A childhood flight from home to Vienna is included in several contemporary accounts of Gluck's life, including Mannlich's, but recent scholarship has cast doubt on Gluck's picturesque tales of earning food and shelter by his singing as he travelled. Most now claim that, if this incident happened at all, it occurred later, and the object of Gluck's journeying was not Vienna but Prague, and connected to his studies at the University of Prague, where according to early biographies he began studying logic and mathematics in 1731. At that time the University boasted a flourishing musical scene that included performances of both Italian opera and oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

. Gluck eventually left Prague without taking a degree, and vanishes from the historical record until 1737, a possible year (likely to have been 1736) in Vienna apart.

Italy

In 1737 Gluck arrived in Milan, where he studied under G. B. Sammartini
Giovanni Battista Sammartini
Giovanni Battista Sammartini was an Italian composer, organist, choirmaster and teacher. He counted Gluck among his students, and was highly regarded by younger composers including Johann Christian Bach...

, who, according to Carpani, taught Gluck "practical knowledge of all the instruments." Apparently this relationship lasted for several years. Sammartini was not, primarily, a composer of opera, his main output being of sacred music and symphonies, but Milan boasted a vibrant opera scene, and Gluck soon formed an association with one of the city's up-and-coming opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

s, the Teatro Regio Ducal
Teatro Regio Ducal
The Teatro Regio Ducal was the opera house in Milan from 26 December 1717 until 25 February 1776, when it was burned down following a carnival gala. Many famous composers and their operas are associated with it, including the premieres of Mozart's Ascanio in Alba, Mitridate, re di Ponto, and Lucio...

, where his first opera, Artaserse, was performed on 26 December 1741. Set to a libretto by Metastasio, the opera opened the Milanese Carnival of 1742. According to one anecdote, the public would not accept Gluck's style until he inserted an aria
Aria
An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

 in the lighter Milanese manner for contrast.

Nevertheless, Gluck composed an opera for each of the next four Carnivals at Milan, with renowned castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

 Giovanni Carestini
Giovanni Carestini
Giovanni Carestini was an Italian castrato of the 18th century, who sang in the operas and oratorios of George Frideric Handel...

 appearing in many of the performances, so the reaction to Artaserse is unlikely to have been completely unfavourable. He also wrote operas for other cities of Northern Italy in between Carnival seasons, including Turin and Venice, where his Ipermestra was given during November 1744 at the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo. Nearly all of his operas in this period were, like Artaserse, set to Metastasio's texts, despite the poet's dislike for his style of composition.

Travels: 1745–1752

In 1745 Gluck accepted an invitation to become house composer at London's King's Theatre, probably travelling to England via Frankfurt and in the company of Georg Christian, Fürst von Lobkowitz
Georg Christian, Fürst von Lobkowitz
Johann Georg Christian, Fürst von Lobkowitz , was an Austrian Generalfeldmarschall....

. The timing was poor, as the Jacobite Rebellion
Jacobite rising
The Jacobite Risings were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in Great Britain and Ireland occurring between 1688 and 1746. The uprisings were aimed at returning James VII of Scotland and II of England, and later his descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne after he was deposed by...

 had caused much panic in London, and for most of the year the King's Theatre was closed. Gluck's two London operas, (La caduta de'giganti and Artamene) eventually performed in 1746, borrowed much from his earlier works, a method that was to re-occur throughout his career. Six trio sonatas were the other immediate fruits of his time in London. A more long-term benefit was exposure to the music of Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

 – whom he later credited as a great influence on his style – and the naturalistic acting style of David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

. Either Gluck or Lobkowitz bought a copy of Handel's Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

. Handel's own experience of Gluck pleased that composer less: Charles Burney
Charles Burney
Charles Burney FRS was an English music historian and father of authors Frances Burney and Sarah Burney.-Life and career:...

 reports Handel as saying that "he [Gluck] knows no more of contrapunto
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

, as mein cook, Waltz".

The years 1747 and 1748 brought Gluck two highly prestigious engagements. First came a commission to produce an opera for Dresden, performed by Pietro Mingotti
Pietro Mingotti
Pietro Mingotti was an Italian impresario active across continental Europe. His brother, Angelo, formed an opera company in Prague around 1732, consisting of 3 male singers and 5 females; Pietro quickly followed suit, and the two troupes achieved Europe-wide success , sometimes performing together...

's troupe, to celebrate a royal double wedding that would unite the ruling families of Bavaria and Saxony. Le nozze d'Ercole e d'Ebe, a festa teatrale
Festa teatrale
The term festa teatrale refers to a genre of drama, and of opera in particular. The genre cannot be rigidly defined, and in any case feste teatrali tend to be split into two different sets: feste teatrali divided by acts are operas, while works in this genre performed without division, or merely...

, borrowed heavily from earlier works, and even from Gluck's teacher Sammartini. The success of this work brought Gluck to the attention of the Viennese court, and, ahead of such a figure as Johann Adolph Hasse
Johann Adolph Hasse
Johann Adolph Hasse was an 18th-century German composer, singer and teacher of music. Immensely popular in his time, Hasse was best known for his prolific operatic output, though he also composed a considerable quantity of sacred music...

, he was selected to set Metastasio's Semiramide riconosciuta to celebrate Maria Theresa
Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma...

's birthday. Vittoria Tesi
Vittoria Tesi
Vittoria Tesi was an Italian opera singer and music teacher of the 18th century. Her vocal range was that of a contralto....

 took the title role. On this occasion Gluck's music was completely original, but the displeasure of the court poet, Metastasio, who called the opera "archvandalian music," probably explains why Gluck did not remain long in Vienna despite the work's enormous popular success (it was performed 27 times to great acclaim). For the remainder of 1748 and 1749 Gluck travelled with Mingotti's troupe, contracting a venereal disease from the prima donna and composing the opera La contesa de' numi for the court at Copenhagen.

In 1750 he abandoned Mingotti's group for another company established by a former member of the Mingotti troupe, Giovanni Battista Locatelli
Giovanni Battista Locatelli
Giovanni Battista Locatelli was an Italian opera director, impresario and owner of a private opera company.In 1757 he and his troupe were invited to St. Petersburg. They put on an opera every week for the court, and two to three times a week they were allowed to give open public performances. The...

. The main effect of this was that Gluck returned to Prague on a more consistent basis. For the Prague Carnival of 1750 Gluck composed a new opera, Ezio (again set to one of Metastasio's works). His Ipermestra was also performed in the same year. The other major event of Gluck's stay in Prague was, on 15 September 1750, his marriage to Maria Anna Bergin, aged 18 years old, the daughter of a rich but long-dead Viennese merchant. The marriage brought Gluck financial security, and he seems to have spent most of 1751 commuting between Prague and Vienna.

The year 1752 brought another major commission to Gluck, when he was asked to set Metastasio's La clemenza di Tito (the specific libretto was the composer's choice) for the nameday celebrations of King Charles VII of Naples (later Charles III of Spain). The opera was performed on 4 November at the Teatro di San Carlo
Teatro di San Carlo
The Real Teatro di San Carlo is an opera house in Naples, Italy. It is the oldest continuously active such venue in Europe.Founded by the Bourbon Charles VII of Naples of the Spanish branch of the dynasty, the theatre was inaugurated on 4 November 1737 — the king's name day — with a performance...

, and the world-famous mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

 castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

 Caffarelli (Gaetano Majorano) took the role of Sextus. For Caffarelli Gluck composed the famous, but notoriously difficult, aria "Se mai senti spirarti sul volto," which provoked admiration and vituperation in equally large measures. Gluck later reworked this aria for his Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride 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....

.
According to one account, the Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante claimed that his fellow composers "should have been proud to have conceived and written [the aria]." Durante simultaneously declined to comment whether or not it was within the boundaries of the accepted compositional rules of the time.

Vienna

Gluck finally settled in Vienna where he became Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

. He wrote Le Cinesi for a festival in 1754 and La Danza for the birthday of the future Emperor Leopold II
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II , born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa...

 the following year. After his opera Antigono was performed in Rome in February, 1756, Gluck was made a Knight of the Golden Spur by Pope Benedict XIV
Pope Benedict XIV
Pope Benedict XIV , born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, was Pope from 17 August 1740 to 3 May 1758.-Life:...

. From that time on, Gluck used the title "Ritter von Gluck" or "Chevalier de Gluck."

Gluck turned his back on Italian opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 and began to write opéra comique
Opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...

s. In 1761, Gluck produced the groundbreaking ballet Don Juan in collaboration with the choreographer Gasparo Angiolini
Gasparo Angiolini
Gasparo Angiolini , real name Domenico Maria Angiolo Gasparini, was an Italian dancer and choreographer, and composer. He was born in Florence and died in Milan....

. The climax of Gluck's opéra comique
Opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...

 writing was La rencontre imprévue
La rencontre imprévue
Les pèlerins de la Mecque ou La rencontre imprévue Wq. 32 is a comédie mêlée d'ariettes, a form of opéra comique, composed in 1763 by Christoph Willibald Gluck to a libretto by Louis Hurtaut Dancourt after the 1726 play by Alain René Lesage and d'Orneval....

of 1764. By that time, Gluck was already engaged in his operatic reforms.

Operatic reforms

Gluck had long pondered the fundamental problem of form and content in opera. He thought both of the main Italian operatic genres – opera buffa
Opera buffa
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc...

 and opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 – had strayed too far from what opera should really be and seemed unnatural. Opera buffa had long lost its original freshness. Its jokes were threadbare and the repetition of the same characters made them seem no more than stereotypes. In opera seria the singing was devoted to superficial effects and the content was uninteresting and fossilised. As in opera buffa, the singers were effectively absolute masters of the stage and the music, decorating the vocal lines so floridly that audiences could no longer recognise the original melody. Gluck wanted to return opera to its origins, focusing on human drama and passions and making words and music of equal importance.

In Vienna, Gluck met likeminded figures in the operatic world: Count Giacomo Durazzo
Giacomo Durazzo
Count Giacomo Durazzo was an Italian diplomat and man of the theatre. He was born into one of the most important aristocratic families in Genoa. His brother was the famous doge Marcellino Durazzo. In 1749, he became ambassador to the court in Vienna where he was appointed director of the imperial...

, the head of the court theatre, who was a passionate admirer of French stage music; the librettist Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Ranieri de' Calzabigi was an Italian poet and librettist, most famous for his collaboration with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck on his "reform" operas....

, who wanted to attack the dominance of Metastasian
Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

 opera seria; the innovative choreographer Gasparo Angiolini
Gasparo Angiolini
Gasparo Angiolini , real name Domenico Maria Angiolo Gasparini, was an Italian dancer and choreographer, and composer. He was born in Florence and died in Milan....

; and the London-trained castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

 Gaetano Guadagni
Gaetano Guadagni
Gaetano Guadagni was an Italian mezzo-soprano castrato singer, most famous for singing the role of Orpheus at the premiere of Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice in 1762.- Career :...

.

The first result of the new thinking was Gluck's reformist ballet Don Juan, but a more important work was soon to follow. On 5 October 1762, Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice 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...

was given its first performance, with music by Gluck to words by Calzabigi. The dances were arranged by Angiolini and the title role was taken by Guadagni. Orfeo, which has never left the standard repertory, showed the beginnings of Gluck's reforms. His idea was to make the drama of the work more important than the star singers who performed it, and to do away with dry recitative
Recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

 (recitativo secco, accompanied only by continuo
Figured bass
Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones, in relation to a bass note...

) that broke up the action. The more flowing and dramatic style which resulted has been seen as a precursor to the music dramas of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

.

Gluck and Calzabigi followed Orfeo with Alceste
Alceste (Gluck)
Alceste is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1767. The libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place in Vienna.-Preface and reforms:...

 
(1767) and Paride ed Elena
Paride ed Elena
Paride ed Elena is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, 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...

 
(1770), pushing their innovations even further. Calzabigi wrote a preface to Alceste, which Gluck signed, setting out the principles of their reforms.

Paris

Gluck then began to spread his ideas to France. Under the patronage of his former music pupil, Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

, who had married the future French king Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 in 1770, Gluck signed a contract for six stage works with the management of the Paris Opéra. He began with Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide 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...

(19 April 1774). The premiere sparked a huge controversy, almost a war, such as had not been seen in the city since the Querelle des Bouffons. Gluck's opponents brought the leading Italian composer, Niccolò Piccinni
Niccolò Piccinni
Niccolò Piccinni was an Italian composer of symphonies, sacred music, chamber music, and opera. Although he is somewhat obscure, even to music lovers today, Piccinni was one of the most popular composers of opera—particularly the Neapolitan opera buffa—of his day...

, to Paris to demonstrate the superiority of Neapolitan opera and the "whole town" engaged in an argument between "Gluckists" and "Piccinnists." The composers themselves took no part in the polemics, but when Piccinni was asked to set the libretto to Roland
Roland (Lully)
Roland is an opera with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and a libretto by Philippe Quinault first performed at Versailles on January 8, 1685. The story is derived from Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso...

, on which Gluck was also known to be working, Gluck destroyed everything he had written for that opera up to that point.

On 2 August 1774 the French version of Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice 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...

was performed, with the title role transposed from the castrato to the tenor voice. This time Gluck's work was better received by the Parisian public. In the same year Gluck returned to Vienna, where he was appointed composer to the imperial court. Over the next few years the now internationally famous composer would travel back and forth between Paris and Vienna. On 23 April 1776, the French version of Alceste
Alceste (Gluck)
Alceste is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1767. The libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place in Vienna.-Preface and reforms:...

was given.

Gluck also wrote Armide
Armide (Gluck)
Armide is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, his fifth for the Parisian stage and the composer's own favourite among his works. It was first performed in Paris at the Académie Royale on 23 September 1777....

(1777), Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride 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....

 
(1779) and Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse was the last original opera, specifically a drame lyrique, written by Christoph Willibald Gluck, his sixth for the French stage. The libretto was written by Louis Theodor von Tschudi.-Performance history:...

for Paris. During the rehearsals for Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse
Echo et Narcisse was the last original opera, specifically a drame lyrique, written by Christoph Willibald Gluck, his sixth for the French stage. The libretto was written by Louis Theodor von Tschudi.-Performance history:...

, Gluck suffered his first stroke. Since the opera itself was a complete failure, Gluck decided to return to Vienna.

His musical heir in Paris was the composer Antonio Salieri
Antonio Salieri
Antonio Salieri was a Venetian classical composer, conductor and teacher born in Legnago, south of Verona, in the Republic of Venice, but who spent his adult life and career as a faithful subject of the Habsburg monarchy....

, who had been Gluck's protégé
Mentorship
Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person....

 since he arrived in Vienna in 1767, and later had made friends with Gluck. Gluck brought Salieri to Paris with him and bequeathed him the libretto for Les Danaïdes
Les Danaïdes
Les Danaïdes is an opera by Antonio Salieri, in 5 acts: more specifically, it is a tragédie lyrique. The opera was set to a libretto by Leblanc du Roullet and Baron Tschudi, who in turn adapted the work of Ranieri de' Calzabigi...

by Leblanc du Roullet and Baron Tschudi. The opera was announced as a collaboration between the two composers; however, after the overwhelming success of its premiere on 26 April 1784, Gluck revealed to the prestigious Journal de Paris that the work was wholly Salieri's.

Last years

In Vienna Gluck wrote a few more minor works but he generally lived in retirement. In 1781 he brought out a German version of Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride 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....

and other operas of his enjoyed great popularity in Vienna.

On 15 November 1787, in Vienna, Gluck suffered another stroke and died a few days later. At a formal commemoration on 8 April 1788 his friend and pupil Salieri conducted Gluck's De profundis
Psalm 130
Psalm 130 , traditionally De profundis from its Latin incipit, is one of the Penitential psalms.-Commentary:...

and a requiem
Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 by the Italian composer Niccolò Jommelli
Niccolò Jommelli
Niccolò Jommelli was an Italian composer. He was born in Aversa and died in Naples. Along with other composers mainly in the Holy Roman Empire and France, he made important changes to opera and reduced the importance of star singers.-Early life:Jommelli was born to Francesco Antonio Jommelli and...

 was given. Like many other prominent musicians and painters Gluck was buried in the Matzleinsdorfer Friedhof. When this cemetery was turned into a park in 1923, Gluck's remains were transferred to a tomb in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof
Zentralfriedhof
The Zentralfriedhof is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, largest by number of interred in Europe and most famous cemetery among Vienna's nearly 50 cemeteries.-Name and location:...

.

Gluck's musical legacy includes approximately 35 complete full-length operas plus around a dozen shorter operas and operatic introductions, as well as numerous ballets and instrumental works. His reforms influenced Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, particularly his opera Idomeneo
Idomeneo
Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante is an Italian language opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, which had been set to music by André Campra as Idoménée in 1712...

(1781). Gluck left behind a flourishing school of disciples in Paris, who would dominate the French stage throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. As well as Salieri, they included Sacchini
Antonio Sacchini
Antonio Maria Gasparo Sacchini was an Italian opera composer.Sacchini was born in Florence, but was raised in Naples, where he received his musical education at the San Onofrio conservatory. He wrote his first operas in Naples, thereafter moving to Venice, then London and eventually Paris, where...

, Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini was an Italian composer who spent most of his working life in France. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries....

, Méhul
Étienne Méhul
Etienne Nicolas Méhul was a French composer, "the most important opera composer in France during the Revolution." He was also the first composer to be called a "Romantic".-Life:...

 and Spontini
Gaspare Spontini
Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini was an Italian opera composer and conductor, extremely celebrated in his time, though largely forgotten after his death.-Biography:...

. Gluck's greatest French admirer would be Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

, whose epic Les Troyens
Les Troyens
Les Troyens is a French opera in five acts by Hector Berlioz. The libretto was written by Berlioz himself, based on Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid...

may be seen as the culmination of the Gluckian tradition. Though Gluck wrote no operas in German, his example influenced the German school of opera, particularly Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

 and Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, whose concept of music drama was not so far removed from Gluck's own.

Instrumental music

  • Symphonies
  • Six trio sonatas, (1746)
    • No 1 in C major
    • No 2 in g minor
    • No 3 in A major
    • No 4 in B-flat major
    • No 5 in E-flat major
    • No 6 in F major
  • Two trio sonatas, after manuscripts
    • no 1 (No 7) in E major
    • No 2 (No 8) in F major

Sources

  • Bruce Alan Brown: Gluck and the French Theatre in Vienna. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1991
  • This article incorporates material from the German version of Wikipedia

Further reading

  • A. A. Abert: Christoph Willibald Gluck (in German) (Munich, 1959)
  • P. Howard: Gluck and the Birth of Modern Opera (London, 1963)
  • W. Felix: Christoph Willibald Gluck (in German) (Leipzig, 1965)
  • D. Heartz: "From Garrick to Gluck: the Reform of Theatre and Opera in the Mid-Eighteenth Century", Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, xciv (1967–8), 111–27. , .
  • J. Rushton: "The Musician Gluck", The Musical Times
    The Musical Times
    The Musical Times is an academic journal of classical music edited and produced in the United Kingdom. It is currently the oldest such journal that is still publishing in the UK, having been published continuously since 1844. It was published as The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular until...

    , cxxvi (1987), 615–18.
  • J. Kerman: Opera as Drama (New York, 1956, 2/1989) Revised 1989 edition ISBN 9780520062740.
  • F. W. Sternfeld: "Expression and Revision in Gluck"s Orfeo and Alceste", Essays Presented to Egon Wellesz (Oxford, 1966), 114–29
  • P. Howard: "“Orfeo” and “Orphée”", The Musical Times, cviii (1967), 892–4.
  • P. Howard: "Gluck"s Two Alcestes: a Comparison", The Musical Times, cxv (1974), 642–3.
  • O. F. Saloman: Aspects of Gluckian Operatic Thought and Practice in France (diss., Columbia U., 1970)
  • J. Rushton: "Iphigénie en Tauride: the Operas of Gluck and Piccinni", Music & Letters
    Music & Letters
    Music & Letters, also known as Music and Letters, is an international journal published quarterly by Oxford University Press with a focus on musicology. Its ISSN is 00274224...

    , liii (1972), 411–30.
  • M. Noiray: Gluck"s Methods of Composition in his French Operas "Iphigénie en Aulide", "Orphée", "Iphigénie en Tauride" (diss., U. of Oxford, 1979
  • P. Howard: "Armide: a Forgotten Masterpiece", Opera, xxx (1982), 572–6.
  • J. Rushton: "“Royal Agamemnon”: the Two Versions of Gluck"s Iphigénie en Aulide", Music and the French Revolution, ed. M. Boyd (Cambridge, 1992), 15–36. ISBN 9780521081870.
  • P. Howard: Christoph Willibald Gluck: A Guide to Research. (London, Routledge, 2003) ISBN 9780415940726.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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