Birthday: July 2, 1714
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born in: Berching
Famous as: Composer
Spouse/Ex-: Marianne Pergin
father: Alexander Johannes
mother: Maria Walburga
Died on: November 15, 1787
place of death: Vienna
education: Charles University in Prague
A prolific opera composer of the classical period, Christoph Gluck was credited for bringing in concrete reforms to the opera's dramaturgical practices. His opera compositions were spread over various operatic genres. Born to a Bohemian (Czech) father in 1714, Gluck learned music at a tender age of three. After completing his studies in Prague, he moved to Milan to gain practical knowledge of all the instruments. His passion for music took him around the world such as London, Prague, Vienna, and Venice. He was also awarded the ‘Order of the Golden Spur’ in 1756 by Pope Benedict XIV. His musical legacy includes around 35 complete operas and numerous other compositions. He was also widely credited for his countless ballets and instrumental works. His disciples ardently followed his styles of music throughout the Revolutionary and the Napoleonic period. The composer died in 1787 after he suffered a stroke. Read on to know more about this great opera composer and his life.
Early Life & Childhood
Christoph Gluck was born on July 2, 1714 to Alexander Johannes and Maria Walburga in Erasbach, Germany. A few years after his birth, the family moved to Bohemia in 1717. At a very young age, Gluck was introduced to music by way of the church choir. It is also speculated that he studied logic and mathematics in 1731 at the University of Prague, but failed to receive his degree for the same. And up until 1737, there are no records that talk about his whereabouts, as the accounts are very vague and ambiguous.
Gluck moved to Milan to study and gain practical knowledge of all the instruments under the guidance of G. B. Sammartini in 1737. He moved Sammartini with his sacred music and symphonies. Gluck was also taken aback by the vibrant operas and formed an association with opera houses, such as the Teatro Regio Ducal. In 1741, Gluck’s first opera ‘Artaserse’ was performed here. Gluck was also given the opportunity to perform the same opera for the open of the Milanese Carnival in 1742. Due to its raving success, he continued to compose operas for each of the next four Carnivals in Milan. He was later offered the post of house composer at London's King's Theatre in 1745. But due to the ‘Jacobite Rebellion’, the theatre was closed for a year. After four years, Gluck’s operas, ‘La caduta de'giganti’ and ‘Artamene’ were performed.
The next year Gluck was bestowed with two great opportunities. The first was a commission to compose an opera for Dresden, performed by Pietro Mingotti's troupe. This was for the royal wedding between the Bavaria and Saxony families. The success of his work brought him to the attention of the Viennese court and he was selected to compose ‘Metastasio's Semiramide riconosciuta’ to celebrate Maria Theresa's birthday. He then continued to tour with Mingotti's troupe. After he left the troupe he joined another group in Prague. The second opportunity arose when he was asked to compose an opera for the Prague Carnival in 1750, called the ‘Ezio’. Then, in 1752, he was asked to perform ‘Metastasio's La clemenza di Tito’ for the ‘nameday celebrations’ of King Charles VII of Naples. He composed the famous aria ‘Se mai senti spirarti sul volto’ and was praised for the same by various musicians. When Gluck finally settled in Vienna, he became the ‘Kapellmeister’ in 1754. Christoph was bestowed with the honor of ‘Knight of the Golden Spur’ by Pope Benedict XIV. After he received this honor, Gluck started using the title "Ritter von Gluck" or "Chevalier de Gluck." He began to write ‘opéra comiques’ and with the collaboration of Gasparo Angiolini (choreographer), Gluck produced his revolutionary ballet, ‘Don Juan’. In 1774, Gluck’s influence in Paris started a huge controversy, where the town was divided into "Gluckists" and "Piccinnists” after the famous Italian composer, Niccolò Piccinni. After a period of brief turmoil, Antonio Salieri, Gluck’s protégé, collaborated with him on ‘Les Danaïdes’, which premiered on April 26, 1784.
Gluck’s music style was criticized by a lot by people who still preferred traditional Italian compositions. Due to influences from various teachers and important musicians, his operas symbolized the beginning of modern, musical dramas that marked the end for ‘opera seria’ styles. Most of Gluck’s compositions were influenced by Italian sacred music. Apart from his major compositions, Gluck composed a few arias, solo motets, and chorals. He also composed 9 symphonies, 6 trio sonatas and 2 trio sonatas.
When Gluck lived in Prague, he married the 18 year old daughter of a rich Viennese merchant on September 15, 1750. She was Maria Anna Bergin.
While rehearsing for ‘Echo et Narcisse’, Gluck suffered his first stroke after which he moved to Vienna. During his last years, he lost interest in composing for opera houses, despite countless offers. His health continued to deteriorate and he suffered three more strokes. On November 15, 1787, Gluck suffered another fatal stroke and passed away a few days later. He was interred at the ‘Matzleinsdorfer Friedhof’ before being moved to a tomb in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof as the former cemetery was converted into a park in 1923.
- Demofoonte, 1743
- Ezio, 1750
- Le cinesi, 1754
- La fausse esclave,1758
- Le diable à quatre, ou La double métamorphose, 1759
- Le cadi dupé, 1761
- Orfeo ed Euridice, 1762
- La rencontre imprévue, 1764
- Telemaco, ossia L'isola di Circe, 1765
- Alceste, 1767
- Le feste d'Apollo, 1769
- Paride ed Elena, 1770
- Iphigénie en Aulide,1774
- Armide, 1777
- Iphigénie en Tauride,1779
- Echo et Narcisse, 1779
- Les amours de Flore et Zéphire, 1759
- Le naufrage, 1759
- La halte des Calmouckes, 1761
- Don Juan, ou Le festin de Pierre, 1761
- Citera assediata, 1762
- Alessandro (Les amours d’Alexandre et de Roxane), 1764
- Sémiramis, 1765
- Iphigénie, 1765
- Klopstocks Oden und Lieder beym Clavier zu Singen, 1785
- An den Tod ("O Anblick der Glanznacht"), 1792
- "Minona lieblich und hold", 1795
- Siegsgesang für Freie ("Laut, wie des Stroms donnernder Sturz"), 1795