Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Christoph W. Gluck

The gently pastoral Dance of the Blessed Spirits beautifully exemplifies Gluck's revolutionary principle that in opera, music and poetry should never overstate their message. In other words, any complexity -- verbal or musical -- needs to be justified by essential dramatic content. Listeners will perhaps be astonished to hear this tranquil music in an opera about Orpheus' journey to Hades, the realm of the dead, in search of his departed wife Eurydice. In fact, in Act II of Gluck's great opera Orfeo ed Euridice, the Dance of the Blessed Spirits immediately follows the Dance of Furies, the vengeful spirits of Hades. Indeed, Greek mythology located Elysium, the world of the blessed, far from Hades. Gluck, however, follows the Homeric tradition, which places Elysium in the Underworld. Written for solo flute with string accompaniment, this piece is in simple ternary form (ABA), the first part an elegant, stately melody that conjures up images of pastoral tranquility under resplendent azure skies. It would be profoundly startling to encounter Death in this pastoral abode of the eternally blessed. The contrasting minore part, like a sudden zephyr disturbing the profound calm of a summer's afternoon, introduces, with its muted passion still within the confines of classical simplicity, an element of anguish that is perhaps an echo of the protagonist's earlier dialogue with the Furies. However, as the A section is reiterated, the idyllic landscape reappears, perhaps suggesting that Orpheus' quest will be successful. Of course, Gluck's vision of Greece was idealistic and in harmony with contemporary scholarship; nevertheless, this vision inspired music of great beauty and dramatic power. The Dance of the Blessed Spirits composition, which has appeared in many popular arrangements, truly embodies Gluck's classical genius.

-- Zoran Minderovic