Christoph Willibald Gluck was born in Weidenwang (Austria) on 2 July 1714. From a very young age, he longed to be a musician. After Prague and Vienna, he completed his studies with Sammartini in Milano, then embarked on a career of stage musician, taking him throughout Europe. He settled in 1752 in Vienna where he composed or adapted opéras-comiques for the Burgtheater. In 1761, he started a fruitful collaboration with Calzabigi: after the ballet Don Juan, both artists challenged the rules of the traditional baroque Italian opera with Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), a great public success in Vienna; then Alceste (1767), with a foreword outlining the main principles of their reform, according to which music is, from now on, at the service of the drama.
Gluck extended his reforms in Paris when the French ambassador in Vienna commissioned him in 1772 an opera based on the libretto of Iphigénie en Aulide. With the help of his singing pupil, Marie-Antoinette, the French King’s fiancée, Gluck moved to Paris at the end of 1773. He gave there the triumphant premiere of Iphigénie en Aulide in April 1774. Then he wrote the French version of Orfeo ed Euridice in collaboration with Pierre-Louis Moline. The first performance on 2 August 1774 was warmly received by the public and Gluck’s career succesfully developed in particular with Armide (1777). Nonetheless his music was contested by his rival Niccolò Piccini, generating the famous strife between the Piccinists and the Gluckists. Health problems forced Gluck to come back to Vienna in October 1779, where he found the strength to compose the German version of Iphigénie en Aulide (1781). But his health quickly declined and he died on 15 November 1781.
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