Iphigenia In Tauris

In four acts by GLUCK.


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

of recognition.

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.