- Christoph Willibald Gluck
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Christoph Willibald Gluck

Christoph Willibald Gluck was born on 2 July, 1714 in Erasbach, Germany. We know that he attended Prague University in 1732, then travelled to Vienna followed by Italy as a musician, under the patronage of Prince Lobkowitz. His first opera, Artaserse was staged successfully in Milan in 1741.

In 1750 he married Maria Anna Bergin, who was the daughter of a wealthy Viennese merchant. This marriage secured his favourable position in the Viennese imperial court, and in 1754 the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa appointed him Kapelmeister to the court theatre in Vienna. He remained there until 1773 at which time he moved to Paris - an even more influential centre of culture.

Gluck was one of the great reforming figures in the long history of opera. By the time he arrived on the scene in the 1740s - the Late Baroque period of music - opera was stifled by conventions. For example, arias for the singers had to be written and performed according to specifications.

Working mainly in Vienna, London, and Paris, Gluck wanted to abolish such restrictions. Rather than making operas simply showcases for singers, he wanted to focus on the quality and natural flow of the opera., He accomplished his goals in a famous preface to his opera Alceste. He used the same plots and scenarios as most of his colleagues, taken mainly from Greek mythology and ancient history, but he infused a new spirit of dramatic honesty and realism. In this way, Gluck exerted a strong influence on the future course of opera, from his younger contemporary Mozart, on into the 19th century.

Two of the best-loved pieces of music that Gluck wrote are the aria "What shall I do without Euridice?" and the slow dance episode "The Dance of the Blessed Spirits", both taken from his opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Their unhurried, flowing melodies typify his style. Gluck could write fast, tempestuous music when it was required, but a stately and deeply expressive quality is the hallmark of this master of 18th century opera.

Gluck died in Vienna on 15 November, 1787, at the age of 73.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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