Christoph Willibald Gluck, Ritter (knight) Von Gluck (born July 2, 1714, Erasbach, near Berching, Upper Palatinate, Bavaria [Germany]—died Nov. 15, 1787.
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.
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 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.
In 1756, Pope Benedict XIV knighted Gluck and awarded him the Order of the Golden Spur.
From that time on, Gluck used the title ‘Ritter von Gluck’ or ‘Chevalier de Gluck’.
While in Vienna, Gluck composed Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), one of his best-known works, and the ballet Don Juan (1761).
These both show some of the changes in style that were to reach full expression in Alceste (1767), which included a preface laying out his ideas on a new style of opera.
Gluck’s idea was to make the drama of the work more important than the star singers who performed it, and to do away with recitative which broke up the action.
The more flowing and dramatic style which resulted has been seen as a precursor to the music dramas of Richard Wagner.