“The Wicked Gods” (On the Extra-Musical Aspects of the Ch. W. Gluck’s Opera Reform)


The S. L. Sorgner’s thesis that opera reform by Gluck was limited to only inner-musical tasks is challenged in this paper. It is shown that dedication to Alceste, on which Sorgner bases his view on the Gluck’s reform does not describe in full extent even the composer’s musical innovations. In particular, it makes no reference to the most important element of the reform — the dramatically increasing role of accompanied recitative.

In the operas based on the libretti by Metastasio this technique was used in exceptional situations — with Gluck and Calzabigi exceptional situations, in which a high character is not able to hide his pain occur regularly indicating the brutality and senselessness of the established by gods order, in which man is doomed to constant suffering. For all of their differences, the Gluck’s reform operas express bourgeois values — above all, the idea of the right of private virtuous man to a happy family life. Thus, the Gluck’s reform operas, written on high, mainly mythological subjects approach, paradoxically, the bourgeois dramas and sentimental comic operas as one of the main means of promoting the new bourgeois ideology in the 18th century.


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