Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Gluck and Orfeo ed Euridice

Christoph Willibald Gluck at the clavichord, painted in 1775
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) at the clavichord, painted in 1775 by Joseph Duplessis

We mark the premiere performance on October 5, 1762 – 258 years ago today – of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice at the Burgtheater in Vienna, in the presence of Empress Maria Theresa her very self. 

The history of opera is not unlike the history of the movies or television: it is a medium of great artistic and intellectual potential cyclically debased by its potential for huge monetary gain. 

The first operas, composed between roughly 1600 and 1640 were courtly entertainments called “drammi per musica”: “dramas with music.” And that’s precisely what they were: stage dramas in which words and actions were deepened a gazillion-fold by setting them to music. Such entertainments were literate and sophisticated, and the great master of the genre was Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). …

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