Christoph Willibald Gluck was a composer of the Early Classical period and a main contributor to the opera reform. During the Enlightenment, society as well as the arts was affected. Public concerts became popular and music was able to be enjoyed by anyone not just the upper class. Gluck himself made changes to the opera during the early classical period. Gluck’s goal was to write music that was simple yet beautiful – he didn’t want to take away from the drama of the opera. He achieved this goal in one of his most famous operas Orfeo ed Euridice and his simplistic musical style can be seen in the aria Che faro senza Euridice.
Gluck believed music should enhance the plot of the opera instead of overpower it. He achieved this by taking out ornamentations in vocal parts and kept the accompaniment very simple. He also made the chorus more present in his operas. In Che faro senza Euridice the music is connected/molded to the drama going on in the opera. For example, in the beginning of the aria, the accompaniment is quite simple, not overbearing at all or “showy.” Gluck also used dynamic levels to help with the opera’s drama – for example at 1:00 and at 2:15 of the recording the dynamic level increases noticeably in both the instrumental and the vocal parts making the listener feel the intensity of the aria. Also, there are many key changes and or accidentals in vocal line causing even more of a dramatic feel which was another trait of Gluck’s.
Comparing Gluck’s Che faro senza Euridice to another opera of around the same time period, Johann Adolf Hasse’s Digli ch’io son fedele from Cleofide, one can hear many differences. In Hasse’s Digli ch’io son fedele there are many dotted rhythms and accented suspensions. There are also ornamentations in the vocal line that are very expressive. It is not as simple as Gluck’s Che faro senza Euridice. In Gluck’s piece, the music and vocal line are supporting the drama of the opera, not drawing the audience away from it while in Hasse’s piece, one gets the feeling it is just showing off the range of the vocalist.
I enjoyed listening to Gluck’s work during the presentations of the early classical period so I looked up some of his operas and came across his Che faro senza Euridice. I do appreciate his simplistic style and trying to focus more on the drama of the opera. It is not that I don’t like ornamentations or expressive singing, it was just nice to hear something different – it was sort of a completely new style! I also enjoyed listening to Hasse’s piece and comparing it to Gluck’s. It is interesting to see different styles side by side and what different composers do.
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, New York). 2010.
Crocker, Richard. A History of Musical Style. McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1966.
“Emma Kirkby- Digli ch’io son fedele- Cleofide- Hasse.” Youtube Video. Posted by “jovi1715.” Uploaded June 24, 2010. Accessed March 18, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKTguWbyO_I
“Gluck – Orfeo ed Euridice- Che faro senza Euridice?” Youtube Video. Posted by “protestant7.” Uploaded December 1, 2010. Accessed. March 18, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HuxJEfsxeI