Gluck, Christoph Willibald von

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gluck, Christoph Willibald von

Christoph Willibald von Gluck (krĬs´tôf vĬl´ēbält fən glŏŏk), 1714–87, German-born operatic composer. Gluck revolutionized opera by establishing lyrical tragedy as a unified vital art form. He studied music at Prague and later in Italy with G. B. Sammartini. His first 10 operas, in the Italian style, were successfully performed in Italy in the years 1741–45. In 1752, after sojourns in England and Germany, Gluck became conductor of Prince Hildburghausen's private orchestra in Vienna, and for the next decade he directed musical productions at the Viennese court. With his opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), inspired by Greek legend, Gluck introduced an entirely new kind of opera, in which dramatic, emotional, and musical elements were artistically fused for the first time. To Ranieri Calzabigi, the librettist of Orfeo and also Alceste (1767), Gluck gave much of the credit for his new operatic style. In 1773, Gluck went to Paris, where his first serious opera with a French libretto, Iphigénie en Aulide (1774), was performed. That and subsequent productions created much controversy between supporters of Gluck and proponents of traditional Italian opera. His last important work, Iphigénie en Tauride (1779), is often considered his masterpiece, and it firmly established his reputation. Eventually, Gluck's emphasis on dramatic impact and musical simplicity became incorporated into the French operatic tradition, and his influence on later composers was considerable.

See his collected correspondence and papers, ed. by H. and E. H. Mueller von Asow (tr. 1962); biographies by M. Cooper (1935) and A. Einstein (tr. 1936); study by E0rnest Newman (1895, repr. 1964).

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