Gluck

Christoph Willibald Gluck was born in Erasbach, Nr Berching in Germany in 1714. He came from a family of foresters who worked for minor nobility.His precocious musical talent led to studies in music [and law] in Prague, probably sponsored by Prince Lobkowitz [the father of Beethoven's patron], and travel to Italy where he studied with G. B. Sammartini.

His earliest output consisted of conventional opera serie, mainly to libretti by Metastasio. He wrote no opera buffa.

From Vienna, Gluck made occasional journeys to fulfil commissions in Italy, and at last, most significantly, in Paris.

Gluck wrote over forty operas. Of these Orfeo ed Euridice, staged in Vienna in 1762 in its original Italian version and in Paris in 1774 in a French version, is the best known. Alceste again turned to Greek legend as did the two tragedies Iphigénie en Aulide and Iphigénie en Tauride, first staged in Paris in 1774 and in 1779 respectively.

By far the best known of all excerpts from operas by Gluck is the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo, closely rivalled by the aria Che faró senza Euridice from the same opera. The soprano aria Divinité du Styx, from Alceste, is popular in recital.

Gluck's last operatic undertaking was his only one in German, a version of Iphégénie en Tauride. He handed Les Danaïdes to his protégé Salieri, before his death, in Vienna, in 1787.

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Composers