Orfeo and Euridice (includes Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Melodie)
Christoph Willibald Gluck


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It missed out on the 2014 chart, but it's back this year: Gluck's Orfeo and Euridice makes a triumphant return. Gluck is a Hall of Fame one-hit wonder

A reform opera. It sounds like a place where bad composers are sentenced to hard labour. It was Gluck's attempt to make new things happen in what he considered to be the increasingly stuck-in-the-mud world of eighteenth-century French opera.

Gluck seems to have been adhering to the unwritten law of opera that appears to state that 'when new ground is to be broken, it must be to the story of Orpheus'. In his version of the story, out went the dull recitatives, replaced by fully accompanied ones; out went sheer virtuosity just for virtuosity's sake and in came singing that enhanced the plot or advanced the character. It was a revolution both in style and content, which moved the whole genre of opera into a new place. Other composers raced to embrace Gluck's trail-blazing ideas.

Orpheus and Euridice by George Frederic Watts (c. 1870).