GLUCK: IphigÈnie en Tauride

Music composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck. Libretto by Nicolas-FranÁois
Guillard after Guymond de la Toucheís IphigÈnie en Tauride, which
was based on Iphigenia in Tauris by Euripides.

First Performance: 18 May 1779, OpÈra, Paris.

Principal Characters:
IphigÈnie [Iphigenia], High Priestess of Diana Soprano
Oreste [Orestes], King of Argos and Mycenae, Iphigeniaís
Pylade [Pylades], King of Phocis, Orestesí friend Tenor
Thoas, King of Tauris Bass
Diane [Diana], goddess of hunting Soprano
First Priestess Soprano
Second Priestess Soprano
A Scythian Bass
A Minister Bass
A Greek woman Soprano

Setting: Tauris after the Trojan War

Background: While en route to Troy, Agamemnon’s
fleet is prevented from proceeding by a storm. Calchas, the soothsayer,
admonishes Agamemnon that he cannot proceed without first offering the
sacrifice he promised Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and the wild
(considered synonymous with the Roman goddess, Diana). The sacrifice can be
none other than Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemenstra.
Iphegenia is offered upon an altar at the bay of Aulis; however, Artemis
deceives them by substituting a deer for Iphigenia. She is then taken to
Tauris, a town ruled by Thoas, to serve as the High Priestess of Artemis’


Act I

In the entrance hall of the temple of Diana as a great storm rages.
Iphigenia, sister of Orestes, is the high priestess of Diana, having been
transported here magically by the goddess when her father Agamemnon attempted
to offer her as a sacrifice. Iphigenia and her priestesses beg all the gods
to protect them from the storm.

Although it dies down, Iphigenia remains troubled by a dream she has had,
in which she envisioned her mother Clytemnestra murdering her father, and
then her own hand stabbing her brother. Thoas, King of Tauris, enters,
himself obsessed with dark thoughts; the oracles, he tells her, predict doom
for him if a single stranger escapes with his life (The custom of the
Scythians, who inhabit Tauris, is to ritually sacrifice any who are
shipwrecked on their shores).

A chorus of Scythians comes bringing news of two young Greeks who have
just been found shipwrecked, demanding their blood. After Iphigenia and the
priestesses depart, Thoas brings in the Greeks, who turn out to be Orestes
and his friend Pylades. After asking them for what purpose they came (they
have come to retrieve Diana’s statue and return it to Greece, though they do
not divulge this), Thoas promises them death and has them taken away.

Act II

Begins, Orestes and Pylades languish in chains. Orestes berates himself
for causing the death of his dear friend, but Pylades assures him that he
does not feel dispirited because they will die united. A minister of the
sanctuary comes to remove Pylades, and as Orestes falls asleep, he is
tormented by visions of the Furies, who wish to avenge his slaying of his
mother (whom Orestes slew for murdering her husband Agamemnon).

Iphigenia enters, and although the two do not recognize each other,
Orestes sees an astonishing likeness between her and the slain Clytemnestra
seen in his dream. She questions him further, asking him the fate of
Agamemnon and all Greece, and he tells her of Agamemnon’s murder by his wife,
and the wife’s murder by her son. In agitation, she asks of the fate of the
son, and Orestes says that the son found the death he had long sought, and
that only their sister Electra remains alive. Iphigenia sends Orestes away
and with her priestesses laments the destruction of her country and the
supposed death of her brother.


Iphigenia determines to save at least one of the two captives, though
because Thoas demands blood, she knows both cannot be spared. She summons
Orestes and Pylades and asks if whichever one is spared will carry word to
her home of Argos with news of her fate to her sister Electra. Both men
readily agree, and Iphigenia chooses Orestes to go.

But on her exit, Orestes insists that Pylades agree to switch places with
him as Orestes cannot bear the thought of his friend’s death; Pylades, on the
contrary, is glad at the thought of dying so Orestes can live. When Iphigenia
returns, Orestes insists that she reverse her decision, threatening to kill
himself before her eyes if she does not. Reluctantly, she agrees to spare
Pylades instead and sends him to carry her message to Electra. Everyone but
Pylades departs, and he closes the act by promising to do everything possible
to save Orestes.

Act IV

Iphigenia wondering how she can ever carry out the killing of the
remaining Greek (Orestes), since somehow her soul shrinks from the thought of
it. The priestesses bring in Orestes, who has been prepared for sacrifice. He
tells her not to lament him, but to strike, telling her it is the will of the
gods. While she wields the knife, Orestes exclaims Iphigenia’s name, leading
her and the priestesses to recognize him and stop the ritual slaughter.

The happy reunion of sister and brother is cut short at news that Thoas is
coming, having heard that one of the captives was released and intent on the
blood of the other. The king enters wildly, ordering his guards to seize
Orestes and promising to sacrifice both him and his sister. At that moment
Pylades enters with a band of Greeks, cutting down Thoas where he stands.

The resulting rout of the Scythians by the Greeks is halted by a deus
ex machina
appearance of Diana, who commands the Scythians to restore
her statue to Greece. She also issues pardon to Orestes for murdering his
mother, sending him to be king over Mycenae and bidding him restore Iphigenia
to her country. As Diana is carried back into the clouds, everyone sings a
concluding chorus of rejoicing at having the favor of earth and heaven
restored to them.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the
complete libretto

image_description=Iphigenie by Anselm Feuerbach (1862)
first_audio_name=Christoph Willibald Gluck: IphigÈnie en Tauride
WinAmp, VLC or iTunes
product_title=Christoph Willibald Gluck: IphigÈnie en Tauride
product_by=IphigÈnie: Carol Vaness
Thoas: Giorgio Surjan
Oreste: Thomas Allen
Pylade: Gosta Windberg
First Priestess: Anna Zoroberto
Second Priestess: Michela Remor
Diane: Silvie Brunet
A Scythian: Angelo Veccia
A Minister: Enrico Turco
A Greek Woman: Svetla Krasteva
Orchestra e coro Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti (cond.)
Live performance, 18 March 1992, Milan.