Holidays in Hell - Gluck the Reformer
Donald Macleod describes himself as "a huge fan" of the music of this week's Composer of the Week, Christoph Willibald Gluck. Gluck is probably best known today as the composer of Orfeo's lament, 'Che faro senza Euridice?', recorded by generations of singers. Gluck also has the reputation of being the man who 'reformed' opera in the second half of the 18th century, rescuing it from the ludicrous excesses of the high-flown Italian opera seria style that little by little had become a vehicle for overpaid warblers to show off their vocal agility. "I sought to retract music", said Gluck, "to its true function of helping poetry to be expressive and to represent the situations of the plot, without interrupting the action or cooling its impetus with useless and unwanted ornaments." All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this extraordinary composer, the sheer quality of whose music is often overshadowed by his reputation as an innovator.
In today's programme, Donald explores the works that established Gluck's revolutionary credentials: the opera Orpheus and Euridice, from which comes the aforementioned lament; and the much less well-known ballet that immediately preceded it, Don Juan, based on the same legend that inspired Mozart's Don Giovanni. Orpheus and Don Juan both go to hell, but while Orpheus cannily negotiated a return ticket, Don Juan's journey is strictly one-way.