Demofonte

Dramma per musica in three acts (1743)
Music by Christoph Willibald Gluck
Performed in Italian

Sunday, 23 November 2014, 7 pm

Conductor: Alan Curtis
With Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Colin Balzer et al.

Il complesso barocco

Synopsis

Of the first eight operas that Christoph Willibald Gluck wrote during his time in Milan only one, Ipermestra, has survived in its entirety. Of Demofonte at least all the solo songs are known, although it is thought that the autographs were destroyed in a fire in the house of his heir. Following the sensational triumph of his first opera Artaserse (libretto by Pietro Metastasio) at the opening of the season at the Milan Court Theatre in 1742, which far exceeded all expectations, Gluck was commissioned to write a scrittura for the next season as well. His second Milanese opera, Demofonte, is again based on a libretto by Metastasio. Every year, a human sacrifice must be made to the god Apollo. Demofonte, the King of Thracia, has selected the young Dircea, who is secretly married to his son Timante, as this year’s sacrifice, and has chosen Princess Creusa as Timante’s new wife. When he finds out about his son’s clandestine marriage, he initially sticks to his original decision, but eventually changes his mind thanks to the intervention of Creusa, who is given to Timante’s y unger brother as a reward. Although it would not be appropriate to try to detect traces of Gluck’s subsequent desire for reform in his early operas, they are nevertheless impressive records of his personal style which is marked above all by the economy of the melody and the clarity of the diatonic harmony.

Cast