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Alceste Tragédia-opéra en trois actes a revisitation by Randall Snyder 1970 under the supervision of Miloš Velimirović revised 2021


Copyright © 2021 Randall Snyder


The history of opera constantly swings from emphasis on drama to that of music. In developing opera based on their interpretation of Greek drama, the Florentine Camarata stressed the dramatic element. The idea that words must have dramatic purpose and clearly understood were impulses moving music away from the polyphony of the late Renaissance to the monodic writing of the early Baroque. During the subsequent century the theatrical and virtuosic elements were emphasized at the expense of their dramatic relevance. . With Gluck’s reform operas the focus once more shifts to the dramatic.

The opera Alceste, with music by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) and the Italian libretto by Ranieri Calzabigi (1714–1795) after the play by Euripides, was premiered in Vienna December 26, 1767. The famous preface1 to the opera outlining Gluck’s aims of reform opera appeared in the printed score in 1769, and has in some respects become better known than the work it prefaces. Gluck waited seven years after his first reform opera (Orfeo ed Euridice) before asking Calzabigi to codify his ideas concerning the relation of drama and music in opera. They may have waited to find out how successful Orfeo would become or perhaps they felt Alceste more fully exemplified their ideas.

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