- Christoph Willibald von Gluck. Tragedia in three acts. 1767.
- Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi, after Euripides.
- First performance at the Vienna Burgtheater on 26th December 1767.
|Alceste (Alcestis), Queen of Pherae in Thessaly ||soprano|
|Admeto (Admetus), her husband ||tenor|
|Eumelo & Aspasia, their children ||sopranos|
|Evandro, confidant of Admeto ||tenor|
|Ismene, confidante of Alceste ||soprano|
|High Priest of Apollo ||baritone|
|God of the Underworld ||bass|
Admetus is about to die, to the distress of the people of Thessaly and of his wife Alcestis and their
two children. Ceremonial prayer to Apollo elicits the answer that Admetus will die that day, unless
someone will take his place. Alcestis offers herself, in the forest at night, in a place sacred to the
gods of the Underworld. Admetus, ignorant, as are others, of what Alcestis has done, recovers,
rejoined now by his wife, who eventually reveals the sacrifice she has made. As she dies, Admetus
tries to kill himself, but is prevented, reminded of his royal duty. Alcestis appears above, with the
god Apollo, who allows her to return to her husband.
Gluck's Alceste , in contrast to the elaborate version of the story by Lully and Quinault, offers a
much simpler and more human version of the legend. It is the second of Gluck's three reform
operas, in which he collaborated with Ranieri de' Calzabigi. Choreography was by Noverre,
allowing a greater degree of realism, relative simplicity of language, the elimination of conventional
exit arias and of other elements perpetuated in the formal libretti of Metastasio. Gluck's 1769
Preface to his opera sets out his principles, and those of Calzabigi, very clearly, their aim for
classical simplicity, in accordance with views current about the classical world, with which Alceste
was intended to be more akin.