GLUCK, Christoph Willibald (1714-1787)

Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787) matriculated in 1731 in the faculty of philosophy at Prague University, sent there by his father, who stubbornly refused to allow him to indulge his passion for music. In 1734 Gluck nevertheless moved to Vienna to embrace a career as a composer. His teacher, Sammartini, gave him a taste for Italian opera, a field in which he was to be very successful, notably with Artamene, Tigrane, Semiramide and Demofoonte. In 1752 Gluck became Kapellmeister to the Prince of Saxe-Hildburghausen. His encounters with like-minded figures such as the poet and librettist Ranieri de’ Calzabigi and the innovative choreographer Gasparo Angiolini encouraged him to undertake the operatic reforms for which he became famous. The Italian version of Orfeo (1762) showed the beginnings of those reforms, and then they were taken further in Alceste (1767). Having arrived in France at the request of Marie-Antoinette, Gluck strove to apply his new rules of composition to the post-Rameau French tragédie lyrique. This resulted in masterpieces such as Iphigénie en Tauride, Iphigénie en Aulide, Armide, the French versions of Orfeo and Alceste, and Écho & Narcisse. Gluck died in Vienna in 1787.