Tuesday, 8 July 2008

125. Christoph Willibald Gluck - Alceste (1767)


Title: Alceste
Performers: Teresa Ringholz, Justin Lavender
Director: Arnold Ostman
Year: 1998
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes


Firstly lets take notice of the fact that there are indeed two versions of Alceste by Gluck, this one from 1767 and another one from 1776. Frankly I prefer the 76 version, although the mood in that one is a lot more funereal than this. For the later version you can get the DVD with Anne Sophie Von Otter, directed by John Eliot Gardiner. The book, however, considers this to be the more successful of the recordings, allrighty.

Gluck takes his reform in opera a little bit further here, the recitatives are even more enmeshed with the arias and choirs, and said choirs work a lot like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action, which is an interesting touch.

However, for all its technical innovations the opera leaves me cold, it ends with a complete Deus Ex Machina, which is very Greek as well, so maybe a Theos ex Techno, heh. The fact that the opera ends with the obligatory opera seria happy ending makes as little sense here as it did in Orfeo. So Blah.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

When Calzabigi published Alceste, he added a preface signed by Gluck, which set out their ideals for operatic reform. The opera displays the features set out in this manifesto, namely:

* no da capo arias

* little or no opportunity for vocal improvisation or virtuosic displays of vocal agility or power

* no long melismas

* a more predominantly syllabic setting of the text to make the words more intelligible

* far less repetition of text within an aria

* a blurring of the distinction between recitative and aria, declamatory and lyrical passages, with altogether less recitative

* accompanied rather than secco recitative

* simpler, more flowing melodic lines

* an overture that is linked by theme or mood to the ensuing action

* more prominence for the chorus, giving it, in imitation of classical Greek drama, an important role commenting on the events unfolding on the stage.

Alceste also has no role for the castrato voice, although Gluck would return to using a castrato in his next opera, Paride ed Elena.

Alceste Act II, Scene III, from the 1776 version:

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