Iphigenia In Tauris
In four acts by GLUCK.
Text by GUILLARD.
Gluck's Iphigenia stands highest among his dramatic compositions. It
is eminently classic and so harmoniously finished, that Herder called
its music sacred.
The libretto is excellent. It follows pretty exactly the Greek
Iphigenia, King Agamemnon's daughter, who has been saved by the go
Diana (or Artemis) from death at the altar of Aulis, has been carried
in a cloud to Tauris, where she is compelled to be High-priestess in
the temple of the barbarous Scythians. There we find her, after having
performed her cruel service for fifteen years.--Human sacrifices
are required, but more than once she has saved a poor stranger from
this awful lot.
Iphigenia is much troubled by a dream, in which she saw her father
deadly wounded by her mother and herself about to kill her brother
Orestes. She bewails her fate, in having at the behest of Thoas, King
of the Scythians, to sacrifice two strangers, who have been thrown on
his shores. Orestes and his friend Pylades, for these are the
strangers, are led to death, loaded with chains.
Iphigenia, hearing that they are her countrymen, resolves to save at
least one of them, in order to send him home to her sister Electra.
She does not know her brother Orestes, who having slain his mother, has
fled, pursued by the furies, but an inner voice makes her choose him as
a messenger to Greece. A lively dispute arises between the two
friends; at last Orestes prevails upon Iphigenia to spare his friend,
by threatening to destroy himself with his own hands, his life being a
burden to him. Iphigenia reluctantly complies with his request, giving
the message for her sister to Pylades.
In the third act Iphigenia vainly tries to steel her heart against her
victim. At last she seizes the knife, but Orestes' cry: "So you also
were pierced by the sacrificial steel, O my sister Iphigenia!" arrests
her; the knife falls from her hands, and there ensues a touching scene
Meanwhile Thoas, who has heard that one of the strangers was about to
depart, enters the temple with his body-guard, and though Iphigenia
tells him, that Orestes is her brother and entreats him so spare
Agamemnon's son, Thoas determines to sacrifice him and his sister
Iphigenia as well. But his evil designs are frustrated by Pylades,
who, returning with several of his countrymen, stabs the King of
Tauris. The goddess Diana herself appears and helping the Greeks in
their fight, gains for them the victory. Diana declares herself
appeased by Orestes' repentance and allows him to return to Mykene with
his sister, his friend and all his followers.