Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
0120050718

In the course of his lengthy career, Gluck wrote over 50 operas, but only a handful are ever performed today.

Yet he is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern opera.

Donald Macleod looks at the life and music of the man who fundamentally reformed the nature of opera.

Extracts from:

La Clemenza di Tito

Cecilia Bartoli

Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin

Bernhard Forck (director)

Le Cinesi

Sivene....Isabelle Poulenard

Tangia....Anne Sofie von Otter

Lisinga....Gloria Banditelli

Silango....Guy de Mey

Orchestra of the Schola Cantorum basiliensis

Rene Jacobs

L'Innocenza Giustificata

Cappella Coloniensis

Christopher Moulds (director)

Don Juan

Tafelmusik

Bruno Weil (conductor).

012007092420080728

With Donald Macleod.

Remembered today as a composer who reformed the narrow conventions of Italian and French opera, Gluck was a fascinatingly unique composer.

He deliberately stood aloof from any school or tradition, declaring he wanted to write 'music belonging to all nations'.

Overture (Orfeo ed Euridice)

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

Rene Jacobs (conductor)

Non vi turbate, no, pietosi dei (Alceste)

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

The English Concert

Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord/director)

Iphigenie en Aulide (Act 2, scenes 6-7)

Achille....John Aler (tenor)

Agamemnon....Jose van Dam (bass-baritone)

Orchestra de l'Opera de Lyon

John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Chaconne (Alessandro)

Musica Antiqua Koln

Reinhard Goebel (conductor)

Iphigenie en Tauride (Act 3)

Iphigenie....Mireille Delunsch (soprano)

Oreste....Simon Keenlyside (baritone)

Une Pretresse....Claire Delgado-Boge (soprano)

Pylade....Yann Beuron (tenor)

Les Musiciens du Louvre

Marc Minkowski (conductor).

01Holidays In Hell - Gluck The Reformer2013090920140616

Donald Macleod explores the works that established Gluck's revolutionary credentials.

Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck. Gluck is probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that little by little had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.

In today's programme, Donald explores the works that established Gluck's revolutionary credentials: the opera Orpheus and Euridice, from which comes the aforementioned lament; and the much less well-known ballet that immediately preceded it, Don Juan, based on the same legend that inspired Mozart's Don Giovanni. Orpheus and Don Juan both go to hell, but while Orpheus cannily negotiated a return ticket, Don Juan's journey is strictly one-way.

0220050719

Donald Macleod examines the opera that transformed Gluck's standing - both among his contemporaries and for all time, and looks at the radical re-working Gluck undertook for the premiere in Paris, where the castrato voice had already fallen out of fashion.

Extracts from:

Orfeo ed Euridice

Orfeo....Derek Lee Ragin

English Baroque Soloists

John Eliot Gardiner (director)

Orphee et Eurydice

Orphee....Richard Croft

Eurydice....Mireille Delunsch

L'Amour....Marion Harousseau

Les Musiciens du Louvre

Marc Minkowski (director).

022007092520080729

Donald Macleod traces the young Gluck's journeys across Europe before he settled in Vienna to write his landmark opera Orfeo ed Euridice.

Though the Bohemian composer's first language was Czech, he learnt his operatic trade in Milan and once even wowed Londoners with his party trick of performing on tuned wine glasses.

Overture (La rencontre imprevue)

Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon

John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Tremo fra' dubbi miei (La clemenza di Tito)

Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano)

Akademie fur Alte Musik, Berlin

Bernhard Forck (conductor)

Larghetto and Allegro non troppo (Don Juan)

English Baroque Soloists

Orfeo ed Euridice (Act 3)

Orfeo....Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano)

Euridice....Veronica Cangemi (soprano)

Amore....Maria Cristina Kiehr (soprano)

RIAS Chamber Choir

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

Rene Jacobs (conductor).

02Gluck's Pre-reform Operas2013091020140617

Donald Macleod focuses on stage works Gluck wrote before he created Orpheus and Euridice.

Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck, probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.

Gluck may be known as one of the key reformers of operatic history, but reforms don't spring out of thin air, so in today's programme Donald explores a handful of the 30-odd stage-works Gluck turned out before he was ready to create his game-changing opera Orpheus and Euridice. Four of them - The Duped Judge, The Chinese Women, The Dance and Innocence Justified - were written for Vienna, where in 1755 Gluck secured the first of several court appointments. The fifth, Ezio, was written several years earlier for Pietro Mingotti's travelling opera troupe, an upmarket outfit who put on shows for royal weddings and other such gala events; at this point Gluck was essentially a composer of no fixed abode, though a tolerably successful one.

0320050720

Gluck regarded his opera Alceste as one of his greatest achievements.

He was keen to impress audiences in both Vienna and Paris and, as with Orfeo ed Euridice, he wrote two versions to accommodate his audiences' tastes.

Donald Macleod introduces extracts from the French version and takes a look at the last of the trilogy of Gluck's so-called 'reform operas'.

Extracts from:

Alceste

Alceste....Anne Sofie von Otter

Admetus....Paul Groves

Grand Priest of Apollo....Dietrich Henschel

Monteverdi Choir

English Baroque Soloists

John Eliot Gardiner (director)

Paride ed Elena

Paris....Magdalena Kozená

Helen....Susan Gritton

Amore....Carolyn Sampson

Pallas Athene....Gillian Webster

Gabrieli Consort and Players

Paul McCreesh (director).

032007092620080730

In his lifetime, Gluck's achievements were overshadowed by a fiery debate on the relationship between words and music in opera.

Gluck's manifesto, laid out in the preface to his opera Alceste, was to 'restrict music to its true function of serving poetry'.

Donald Macleod investigates.

Sinfonia and Marche (Alessandro)

Musica Antiqua Koln

Reinhard Goebel (conductor)

Alceste (Act 3, scenes 3-5)

Alceste....Theresa Ringholz (soprano)

Admeto....Justin Lavender (tenor)

Evandro....Jonas Degerfeldt (tenor)

Ismene....Miriam Treichl (soprano)

Gran sacerdote/Apollo....Lars Martinsson (baritone)

Eumelo....Adam Giertz (treble)

Aspasia....Emelie Clausen (soprano)

Un banditore....Mattias Nilsson (baritone)

L'Oracolo....Johan Lilja (bass)

Drottningholm Theatre Chorus and Orchestra

Arnold Ostman (conductor)

Paride ed Elena (Overture; Act 1)

Paride....Magdalena Kozena (mezzo-soprano)

Amore....Carolyn Sampson (soprano)

Gabrieli Consort and Players

Paul McCreesh (conductor).

03Alceste2013091120140618

Donald Macleod focuses on Gluck's opera Alceste.

Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck, probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.

Today's programme focuses on Alceste, premièred in Vienna in 1767 then revised for the Parisian stage eight years later. Writing the opera reduced Gluck to a state of nervous exhaustion: "it seems to me that I have a hive of bees in my head that buzz continually", he said. It's a tale of matrimonial devotion set in legendary times. King Admetus is dying. The God Apollo decrees that only if someone should freely offer their life in his place will Admetus be spared. His wife, Alcestis, does so, but when Admetus finds out, he refuses to acquiesce in her sacrifice and decides to die alongside her. Impressed by the strength of their love for each other, Apollo allows them both to live happily ever after. Gluck wrote Alceste in tribute to the Empress Maria Theresa, recently widowed, but he sensed that the opera would outlive the circumstances that produced it: "Alceste is not a work for a single season. I declare that it will please as much two hundred years hence, for I have grounded it in nature, which does not change with every passing fashion.".

0420050721

Gluck's quick temper and combative nature earned him an unenviable reputation, and when he spent six months rehearsing his next opera for Paris, he stretched the performers' tolerance to the limit.

Nevertheless, Iphigenie en Aulis was a great success and it was the making of Gluck in the capital.

Donald Macleod introduces highlights from this and his next great success in Paris, Armide.

Iphigenie en Aulis

Clytemnestra....Anne Sofie von Otter

Iphigenie....Lynne Dawson

Agamemnon....Jose van Dam

Achilles....John Aler

Monteverdi Choir

Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon

John Eliot Gardiner (director)

Armide

Armide....Mireille Delunsch

Phenice....Francoise Masset

Sidonie....Nicole Heaston

Hidraot....Laurent Naouri

Aronte....Vincent le Texier

Two coryphees....Sandrine Rondot, Myriam Sosson

Crusaders....Brett Polegato, Yann Beuron

Les Musiciens du Louvre and Chorus

Marc Minkowski (director).

0420070927

Donald Macleod looks at Gluck's decision in 1774 to apply his radical aesthetic ideals within the narrow traditions of French opera.

Triumph overcame initial hostility with the Paris premiere of Iphigenie en Aulide and a French version of Orfeo.

Air gai (Danse, Act 2, Iphigenie en Aulide)

Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon

John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Orphee et Euridice (Act 2, scenes 1-4)

Orphee....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Eurydice....Barbara Hendricks (soprano)

Monteverdi Choir

Orchestra de l'Opera de Lyon

Iphigenie en Aulide (Act 3)

Iphigenie....Lynne Dawson (soprano)

Arcas....Rene Schirrer (baritone)

Achille....John Aler (tenor)

Clytemnestre....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Calchas....Gilles Cachemaille (bass-baritone)

Diane....Guillemette Laurens (mezzo-soprano)

Agamemnon....Jose van Dam (bass-baritone)

042007092720080731

4/5.

Donald Macleod looks at Gluck's decision in 1774 to apply his radical aesthetic ideals within the narrow traditions of French opera.

Triumph overcame initial hostility with the Paris premiere of Iphigenie en Aulide and a French version of Orfeo.

Air gai (Danse, Act 2, Iphigenie en Aulide)

Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon

John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Orphee et Euridice (Act 2, scenes 1-4)

Orphee....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Eurydice....Barbara Hendricks (soprano)

Monteverdi Choir

Orchestra de l'Opera de Lyon

Iphigenie en Aulide (Act 3)

Iphigenie....Lynne Dawson (soprano)

Arcas....Rene Schirrer (baritone)

Achille....John Aler (tenor)

Clytemnestre....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Calchas....Gilles Cachemaille (bass-baritone)

Diane....Guillemette Laurens (mezzo-soprano)

Agamemnon....Jose van Dam (bass-baritone)

04Gluck Storms Paris2013091220140619

Donald Macleod focuses on Philemon and Baucis, Paride ed Elena and Iphigenia in Aulide.

Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck, probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.

In today's programme, a courtly entertainment; a close shave; and success in Paris.

The courtly entertainment is Gluck's Philemon and Baucis, part of a suite of operatic one-acters commissioned to spice up the marriage celebrations of Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, a grandson of Louis XV, to Maria Amalia, Archduchess of Austria and daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa in July 1769. The close shave relates to an opera Gluck wrote the following year; Paride ed Elena tells the story of the adulterous love between the Trojan prince, Paris, and Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. In his anxiety to secure a venue for the production, Gluck gambled most of his savings on an ill-starred joint venture with a conman who went by the name of Count Afflisio. Gluck was duly fleeced, and learnt a costly if not catastrophic lesson. Success in Paris came four years later with Iphigenia in Aulis, his first opera to be conceived from the get-go for a French text. This time there was no difficulty in securing a venue, as Gluck had an influential backer: Marie Antoinette.

Donald Macleod focuses on Philemon and Baucis, Paride ed Elena and Iphigenia in Aulis.

05 LAST2007092820080801

5/5.

Donald Macleod concludes his survey of Gluck's rollercoaster operatic career, including his sequel to Iphigenie en Aulide, and a French farce that sent him back to Vienna with his tail between his legs.

Chaconne (Alceste, Act 3)

English Baroque Soloists

John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Armide (Act 2)

Artemidore....Yann Beuron (tenor)

Renaud....Charles Workman (tenor)

Hidraot....Laurent Naouri (baritone)

Armide....Mireille Delunsch (soprano)

Une Naiade....Valerie Gabail (soprano)

Deux coryphees en echo....Sandrine Rondot, Myriam Sosson (sopranos)

Coryphees....Valerie Gabail, Thierry Gregoire, Jean-Christophe Hurtaud, Marcos Loureiro de Sa

Une Bergere....Nicole Heaston (soprano)

Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre

Les Musiciens du Louvre

Marc Minkowski (conductor)

Iphigenie en Tauride (Act 4)

Iphigenie....Diana Montague (mezzo-soprano)

Oreste....Thomas Allen (baritone)

Une femme greque....Daniella Borst (soprano)

Thoas....Rene Massis (bass-baritone)

Pylade....John Aler (tenor)

Monteverdi Choir

Orchestre de l'Opera Lyon

05 LASTGluck's Last Act2013091320140620

Exploring Gluck's last works, including Armide, Iphigenie en Tauride and Echo et Narcisse.

Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck, probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.

In the last of this week's programmes, Gluck bows out with two operatic hits and a miscalculation, all produced for the Parisian stage. Armida initially caused controversy by setting a libretto originally written the previous century for the sainted Lully; like Gluck, Lully was a foreigner, but he had become a French national icon, and his work was not to be tampered with. Two years further on, when the orchestra of the Paris Opera first struck up the opening bars of Iphigenia in Tauris, not with an overture, but hurtling the audience straight into the action, it was to herald the greatest triumph of Gluck's entire career in France. According to one newspaper report, "Some of the audience were seen to weep from beginning to end". If they were weeping at the première of Echo and Narcissus just two months later, it was for a different reason. The opera, which was to be Gluck's last, a pastoral confection a world away from the classical seriousness of Iphigenia, was an unmitigated turkey. Gluck quit the French capital in dismay and returned to Vienna, where he lived out his remaining years.