Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride is an 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...

 by Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. 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...

 in four acts. It was his fifth opera for the French stage. The libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 was written by Nicolas-François Guillard
Nicolas-François Guillard
Nicolas-François Guillard was a French librettist. He was born in Chartres and died in Paris, the recipient of a government pension in recognition of his work writing librettos. He was also on Comité de Lecture of the Paris Opéra...


With Iphigénie, Gluck took his operatic reform to its logical conclusion. The 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...

s 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
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 which deals with stories concerning the family of Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

 in the aftermath of the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...


Performance history

Iphigénie en Tauride was first performed in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 on 18 May 1779 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
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...

, 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
Iphigénie en Tauride (Piccinni)
Iphigénie en Tauride is a tragédie lyrique in four acts by Niccolò Piccinni, which was first performed at the Académie royale de musique on January 23, 1781...

was not premiered until January 1781 and did not enjoy the popularity that Gluck's work did.

In 1781 Gluck produced a German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 version of the opera, Iphigenia in Tauris, for the visit of the Russian Grand Duke Paul
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

 to 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...

, 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
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

 to tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 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
The Burgtheater , originally known as K.K. Theater an der Burg, then until 1918 as the K.K. Hofburgtheater, is the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world.The Burgtheater was created in 1741 and has become known as "die Burg" by the...

, as the emperor Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

 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
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...

 company recruited again and engaging Lorenzo da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte was a Venetian opera librettist and poet. He wrote the librettos for 28 operas by 11 composers, including three of Mozart's greatest operas, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte....

 as his theatre poet, the latter was charged to prepare an Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 translation of Gluck’s opera, which was staged in the restored Burgtheater, on 14 December 1783. The German edition was revived in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 at the former Königliches Nationaltheater in the Gendarmenmarkt
The Gendarmenmarkt is a square in Berlin, and the site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German Cathedrals. The centre of the Gendarmenmarkt is crowned by a statue of Germany's poet Friedrich Schiller. The square was created by Johann Arnold Nering at the end of the seventeenth century as the...

 on 24 February 1795, while Da Ponte’s translation was chosen for the London first performance at the King's Theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre, in Haymarket, City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the 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
Théâtre de la Renaissance
The name Théâtre de la Renaissance has been used successively for three distinct Parisian theatre companies. The first two companies, which were short-lived enterprises in the 19th century, used the Salle Ventadour, now an office building on the Rue Méhul in the 2nd arrondissement.The current...

 (1899), and the Opéra-Comique
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...

 (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
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 and with Pierre Monteux
Pierre Monteux
Pierre Monteux was an orchestra conductor. Born in Paris, France, Monteux later became an American citizen.-Life and career:Monteux was born in Paris in 1875. His family was descended from Sephardi Jews who came to France in the wake of the Spanish Inquisition. He studied violin from an early age,...

 conducting the orchestra”.

In 1889 Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

 made a new arrangement of the work for the publisher Adolph Fürstner, which was later staged in Weimar
Weimar is a city in Germany famous for its cultural heritage. It is located in the federal state of Thuringia , north of the Thüringer Wald, east of Erfurt, and southwest of Halle and Leipzig. Its current population is approximately 65,000. The oldest record of the city dates from the year 899...

 at the Hoftheater on 9 June 1900, under the Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

-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
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 in 1916, but is by now rarely heard. It was recorded in 1961 with Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé is a Spanish operatic soprano. Although she sang a wide variety of roles, she is best known as an exponent of the bel canto repertoire, notably the works of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi....

 in the title role and was recently revived at the 2009 Festival della Valle d'Itria
Festival della Valle d'Itria
The Festival della Valle d’Itria is a summer opera festival held in the south eastern Italian town of Martina Franca in the Apulia region. The Festival was founded in 1975 and performances are given in July and August each summer on a specially constructed stage in the outdoor courtyard of the...

 at Martina Franca
Martina Franca
Martina Franca is a town and comune in the province of Taranto, Apulia , Italy. It is the second most populated city of the province after Taranto....


As for the Da Ponte Italian version, there was a “memorable” staging at the Teatro alla Scala in 1957, with Nino Sanzogno
Nino Sanzogno
Nino Sanzogno was an Italian conductor and composer.He studied the violin with Guarneri and composition with Agostini at the Venice Liceo Musicale, and later conducting in Vienna with Hermann Scherchen...

 conducting the orchestra, Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

 as the director and Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

 in the title role. The performance of 1 June was also recorded live and is now available in CD.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 18, 1779
(Conductor: - )
Iphigénie (Iphigenia), Priestess of Diana soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

 or 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...

Rosalie Levasseur
Rosalie Levasseur
Rosalie Levasseur or Le Vasseur was a French soprano. Known as 'Mlle Rosalie', she is best remembered for her work with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck....

Oreste (Orestes
Orestes (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Orestes was the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. He is the subject of several Ancient Greek plays and of various myths connected with his madness and purification, which retain obscure threads of much older ones....

), her brother
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

 or tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Henri Larrivée
Pylade (Pylades
In Greek mythology, Pylades is the son of King Strophius of Phocis and of Anaxibia, daughter of Atreus and sister of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He is mostly known for his strong friendship with his cousin Orestes, son of Agamemnon.-Orestes and Pylades:...

), his friend
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Joseph Legros
Joseph Legros
Joseph Legros was a French singer and composer of the 18th century. He is best remembered for his association with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck...

Thoas, King of Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

bass Jean-Pierre Moreau
Diane (Diana
Diana (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy...

soprano Châteauvieux
Scythians, priestesses of Diana, Greeks


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
Orestes was the son of Agamemnon in Greek mythology; Orestes may also refer to:Drama*Orestes , by Euripides*Orestes, the character in Sophocles' tragedy Electra*Orestes, the character in Aeschylus' trilogy of tragedies, Oresteia...

, 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
In Greek mythology, Electra was an Argive princess and daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. She and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father Agamemnon...

 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
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

. 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
Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.-Linguistic considerations:...

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
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' 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
Tommaso Traetta
Tommaso Michele Francesco Saverio Traetta was an Italian composer.-Biography:Traetta was born in Bitonto, a town near Bari, near the top of the heel of the boot of Italy. He eventually became a pupil of the composer, singer and teacher Nicola Porpora in Naples, and scored a first success with his...

 with a libretto by Marco Coltellini
Marco Coltellini
Marco Coltellini was an Italian opera librettist and printer.He was probably born in Livorno and embarked on a career in the Church, but had to leave after fathering four daughters. He set up a printing shop in Livorno to publish the works of Enlightenment figures such as Francesco Algarotti and...

, 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
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...

(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
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

-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
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

. 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
    The gigue or giga is a lively baroque dance originating from the British jig. It was imported into France in the mid-17th century and usually appears at the end of a suite...

     of the Partita
    Partita was originally the name for a single instrumental piece of music , but Johann Kuhnau and later German composers used it for collections of musical pieces, as a synonym for suite.Johann Sebastian Bach wrote two sets of Partitas for different instruments...

     no. 1 in B Flat (BWV
    The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis is the numbering system identifying compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. The prefix BWV, followed by the work's number, is the shorthand identification for Bach's compositions...

     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
    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...

    (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
Sforzando may refer to:*Sforzando, used in musical notation as an instruction to play a note with sudden, strong emphasis *Sforzando , a "pirate orchestra" from Melbourne, Australia, named after the musical term...

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

 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."


  • The Viking Opera Guide ed. Amanda Holden (Viking, 1993)
  • Notes by Julian Rushton in the booklet to Minkowski's recording of Iphigénie (see discography)
  • Notes by Ernst Krause in the booklet to Gardiner's recording of Iphigénie
  • Julie E. Cumming "Gluck's Iphigenia Operas: Sources and Strategies" in Thomas Bauman (ed.) Opera and the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Michael Ewans Opera from the Greek: Studies in the Poetics of Appropriation (Ashgate Publishing, 2007)
  • Donald Grout A Short History of Opera (Columbia University Press, 2003 edition)
  • Daniel Heartz From Garrick to Gluck: Essays on Opera in the Age of Enlightenment (Pendragon Press, 2004) Théodore de Lajarte, Bibliothèque Musicale du Théatre de l'Opéra. Catalogue Historique, Chronologique, Anecdotique, Tome I (Paris, Librairie des bibliophiles, 1878) [accessibie for free online in scribd.com ]
  • Spire Pitou, The Paris Opéra. An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers – Rococo and Romantic, 1715-1815 (Greenwood Press, 1985)
  • Stanley Sadie (ed), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (Oxford University Press, 1997) Amadeus Almanac (accessed 13 March 2011) Il dizionario dell'opera (article: Iphigénie en Tauride), «del Teatro», Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore (accessed 23 August 2011)

External links

  • Libretto (French)
  • Libretto (German)
  • MetOpera database
  • 2006-2007 production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • June 2007 production at the San Francisco Opera
    San Francisco Opera
    San Francisco Opera is an American opera company, based in San Francisco, California.It was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola and is the second largest opera company in North America...

     with Susan Graham
    Susan Graham
    Susan Graham is an American mezzo-soprano.Raised in Midland, Texas, she is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music. She studied the piano for 13 years...

  • Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride Robert Carsen's plot synopsis accompanying Royal Opera House
    Royal Opera House
    The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

     production with Susan Graham
    Susan Graham
    Susan Graham is an American mezzo-soprano.Raised in Midland, Texas, she is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music. She studied the piano for 13 years...

     and Simon Keenlyside
    Simon Keenlyside
    Simon Keenlyside CBE is a British baritone who has had an active international career performing in operas and concerts since the mid 1980s.-Early life and education:...

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