The composer who changed opera with “beautiful simplicity”

He is both the initiator and the container of this great change. Stephen Wadsworth, who directed Iphigénie en Tauride at the Metropolitan Opera in 2007, said in an interview: “There are a lot of people trying to naturalize popular styles and to tame them to some extent. . Around the same time, other opera composers, writers, and conductors were also pursuing simpler, less complex melodies, integrating arias into surrounding recitatives (dialogue), more realistic performance styles, and fewer spoken word singers. of submission.

Gluck’s Orfeo and Eurydice (1762) was the culmination of these efforts and launched his signature style. His librettist, Ranieri de Calzabigi, urged him to combine text and music. The title role is sung by actor Gaetano Guadagni, who has collaborated with British actor David Garrick, a pioneer of stage naturalism.

Alceste premiered in 1767, and when the score was published two years later, Gluck’s preface spelled out his artistic creed, calling for an end to the steady march of the Capo arias in favor of an unfolding drama, through which Aria, recitative and dance sequences and choruses play a more important role in the action. Soft and clear recitation dominates the score: “always as simple and natural as possible,” Gluck wrote.

He rehearsed for six months for his first opera in Paris, Iphigénie en Aulide. (Achieving simplicity is extremely complex.) Gluck’s experiments sparked such controversy that Leopold Mozart warned his 22-year-old son, already known as Wolfgang Amadeus, , don’t alienate any cultural elite by taking sides.

But Mozart made his choice clear: his masterful Idomeneus (1781) quoted Gluck’s verse in homage. He was one of the first composers to learn from Gluck’s lessons, followed by seminal giants such as Cherubini, Beethoven, Spontini, Berlioz, Meyerbeer and Wagner.

The success of “Iphigénie en Aulide” was enough to inspire “Iphigénie en Tauride”, a kind of sequel and a kind of maturity. There are more aria-like passages in the second opera, but they are in more unexpected places and closer to the drama. At Aix, Haim’s strong directing brings their styles closer together, diluting the nostalgic politeness of “Olid,” which makes it a less intense, simple drama than “Talid.” .

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