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Christoph Willibald Gluck

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87)


Born in Erasbach to a forester and his wife, Gluck studied in Prague and Milan and did some early operatic work in London, Dresden and Naples before establishing himself in Vienna in the 1750s. During this period he became disenchanted with the conventions of the opera seria with which he had made his name and composed lighter fare for a time before embarking on his famous operatic 'reforms', which centred on stripping away superficial virtuoso display in favour of focus on human drama, restoring the balance between words and music and moving away from 'numbers' opera and towards a more flowing, through-composed style. His greatest and best-known work is the 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice, which puts all of these ideas into practice - though, ironically enough, its fame rests largely on a single 'number', Orfeo's beautiful lament 'Che faro?' ('What is life to me without me?').

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