Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen)
  • Christoph Willibald von Gluck. Dramma per musica in five acts. 1770.
  • Libretto by Ranieri de'Calzabigi.
  • First performance at the Burgtheater, Vienna, on 3rd November 1770.
CHARACTERS
Paride (Paris), son of King Priam of Troy male soprano
Elena (Helen), Queen of Sparta soprano
Amore (Cupid), under the name of Erasto, confidant of Paris soprano
Pallas Athene (Minerva), goddess, daughter of Jupiter soprano
A Trojan soprano

Paris, having chosen Venus above Juno and Minerva, is in Sparta, sacrificing to Venus and seeking, now with the encouragement of Erasto, the love of Helen. Paris and Helen meet at her royal palace and each is struck by the other's beauty. She calls on him to judge an athletic contest and when asked to sing he does so in praise of her beauty, admitting the purpose of his visit is to win her love. She dismisses him. In despair Paris now pleads with her, and she begins to give way. Eventually, through the intervention of Erasto, who now reveals himself as Cupid, she gives way, but Pallas Athene (Minerva) now warns them of sorrow to come. In the final scene Paris and Helen make ready to embark for Troy.

Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) is the third of Gluck's so-called reform operas for Vienna, following Alceste (Alcestis) and Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice), and the least often performed of the three. Arias from the opera that enjoy an independent concert existence include Paris's minor-key declaration of love, O del mio dolce ardor (O of my gentle love), in the first act. His second aria is Spiagge amate (Beloved shores). In the second act, again in a minor key, Paris fears that he may lose Helen in Le belle imagini (The fair semblance) and in the fourth would prefer death to life without Helen, Di te scordarmi, e vivere (To forget you and to live). The rôle of Paris offers difficulties of casting, written, as it was, for a relatively high castrato voice. Arias of Paris have been purloined by tenors, with transposition an octave lower, or appropriated by sopranos and mezzo-sopranos.