Scene 1 The grand square in the city of Pherae, bounded by the Royal Palace with its great door and balcony above. As the curtain rises the whole square is seen crowded with People variously disposed. They all bear in their hands olive branches decked with ribbons, symbols of supplication and show signs of great affliction. To the right is an altar on which incense is burning, to the left Evander, Ismene and some of the leading citizens.
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Alceste , Wq. The libretto in Italian was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi and based on the play Alcestis by Euripides. The premiere took place on 26 December at the Burgtheater in Vienna.
When Gluck published the score of Alceste in Vienna in , he added a famous preface in Italian almost certainly written by Calzabigi, which set out their ideals for operatic reform,  whose programmatic points follow those exposed by Francesco Algarotti in his Saggio sopra l'opera in musica Essay on opera in music , , namely:.
Alceste also has no role for the castrato voice, although Gluck would return to using a castrato in his next opera, Paride ed Elena , and even rewrite the tenor role of Admetus for the soprano castrato Giuseppe Millico , in the revival of Alceste in Vienna. The premiere took place on 23 April in the second Salle du Palais-Royal. With the presentations in Paris, Alceste became an essentially new work, the translation from Italian to French necessitating several changes in the musical declamation of text, and certain scenes significantly reorganized to new or altered music.
Some of the changes were made upon the advice of Jean-Jacques Rousseau , one of Gluck's greatest French admirers, but the bulk of the adaptation was the work of French aristocrat Du Roullet, with improvements by the composer. Gluck fought several efforts to make the new version of Alceste conform to French tastes, resisting pressure to end the opera with an extended ballet.
The new libretto does, however, introduce several subsidiary characters for dramatic variety, and, following the example of Euripides, on whose work the libretto is loosely based, even calls in Hercules in the final act. This was remounted, with further rearrangements, in , starring Marie Battu.
The opera was sung in Italian. The Metropolitan Opera gave Alceste in three different seasons, with four sopranos starring in eighteen performances. Its premiere on 24 January , sung in French, featured Marjorie Lawrence. She sang the role eight times that season, and her last performance, on 11 February, remains the last time Alceste was seen at the Met. Nowadays the opera is usually given in the Paris version musically, with the libretto sometimes back-translated into Italian.
In Don Giovanni , written in , twenty years after Alceste and the year Gluck died Mozart used a similar chord progression , as well as texture and orchestration, for the Commendatore speaking to Don Giovanni in the garden scene that Gluck used for the line of the High Priest when saying that Alceste will die if no one takes her place. For example, when Gluck went to Vienna, an aria was added to act 3. Berlioz came to the conclusion that Gluck was under so much pressure that he let it happen.
Berlioz notes Gluck added corrections during rehearsals, and misunderstandings in the score, due to what Berlioz calls Gluck's "happy-go-lucky" style of writing.
Original version in Italian . A herald announces to the people of Thessaly that King Admeto is gravely ill and that there is little hope. Evandro calls upon all to pray to the oracle at the temple of Apollo. Alceste joins them and asks Apollo for pity. The oracle says Admeto can be rescued if another voluntarily sacrifices his life. This causes great consternation. Alone, Alceste agonizes whether to give her life for that of her husband. In a dense forest dedicated to the gods of the underworld, Ismene asks Alceste why she is leaving her husband and children.
Alceste tells Ismene of her intentions. Meanwhile, Admeto has a miraculous recovery to the joy of all Thessaly. Evandro tells him that someone has apparently sacrificed himself for the king. When Alceste appears, he questions her until she confesses. The desperate king hurries into the temple to plead with the gods. However, Alceste says good-bye to the children. The decision of the gods is not revoked. The people lament the approaching death of Alceste.
Having said good-bye to Alceste, Admeto decides to follow her into death. Then the heavens open, Apollo descends and proclaims that the gods have given them their lives as a reward for their steadfast love. Paris version . The overture is stately, noble, and tragic, looking ahead to some of Mozart's minor-key works.
The choir propels much of the action in the first two acts, and Gluck's vocal settings are particularly elegant, taking advantage of the French language's smooth rhythms, although the writing is rather static in its sad dignity. King Admetus is dying, and his people are in despair. The god Apollo refuses their animal sacrifice, proclaiming that Admetus will live only if another person is sacrificed in his place.
Queen Alceste believes she is the victim Apollo has in mind, but declares she will surrender her life only for love. Aria: "Divinites du Styx". The people celebrate the king's recovery. Admetus does not realize that Alceste has volunteered to die in his place, and his wife won't give herself up until the record is set straight.
When he learns the truth, Admetus believes that Alceste is in effect abandoning him, and would prefer to die himself.
The people, sorrowing again, prepare the royal couple's children for sacrifice in their place. Admetus' friend Hercules arrives and promises to conquer death on his behalf, and travels to Hades. Meanwhile, Alceste has already arrived at the gates of hell; Admetus tries to dissuade her, but she is sacrificing herself for love, rather than as some heroic act.
She dies, but Hercules rescues her—except that now Alceste seems nearly insane. Apollo arrives, promises Hercules immortality, and leaves Admetus and Alceste in a world that seems devoid of death. The work ends with a joyful chorus. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For Millico, Gluck's favourite singer and intimate friend, the composer had already transposed up the originally contralto role of Orfeo in the first Italian performance of Orfeo ed Euridice , at Parma in cf.
Retrieved 31 May Evidently, the reinstatement of the character of Hercules from Euripides ' Alcestis , personally demanded by Gluck, was only implemented at the last moment, after the libretto had already been printed. Oxford University Press, , p. Alcestis by Euripides. The Cocktail Party. Alceste Admeto Alceste Alcmaeon in Psophis. Christoph Willibald Gluck. See also Operas by Gluck.
Chorus : officers of the palace, Alcestis's attendants, citizens of Pherae, infernal deities, priests and priestesses in the temple of Apollo.
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Music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — La Gioconda , dramma lirico in four acts. Music composed by Amilcare Ponchielli — Don Carlo , an opera in four acts. Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi — Un ballo in maschera , a melodramma in three acts.
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