IPHIGENIE EN AULIDE " Iphigenie en Aulide " or " Iphigenia in Aulus," a grand opera in three acts with music by Christoph Willibald Gluck and text by Bailli du Rollet, based upon the tragedy of Racine, which, in turn, was founded on the play of Euripides. was produced in Paris in 1774.
Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon. Clytemnestra, queen of Agamemnon. First Greek Woman.
Second Greek Woman.
Third Greek Woman.
A woman in the crowd.
Achilles, the Grecian Hero.
Agamemnon, king of Mycente. Calchas, a soothsayer.
Patroclus, friend of Achilles.
Arcas, servant to Agamemnon.
Chorus of Greeks, women, and Thessalians.
Because Agamemnon has killed a stag in her sacred grove, the haughty Diana sends a calm which detains the Greeks at Aulis, on their way to Troy. They go to Calchas, a soothsayer, and demand a way to propitiate the goddess. He tells them that a costly sacrifice will be required and privately tells Agamemnon that Iphigenia, his daughter, will be the victim, entreating him at the same time to submit to the will of the gods.
When the opera opens, the beautiful Iphigenia, whom the Greeks praise as fairer than the three goddesses Paris saw on Mount Ida, is on her way from Mycenm to Aulis to be married to Achilles. She is accompanied by her mother, Clytemnestra. In desperation, her father sends his servant to meet them and to tell them that Achilles is faith less and is about to take another bride, hoping thus to keep them from Aulis. By some mischance, they fail to receive the message. They arrive and are received with joy by the Greeks. Iphigenia now hears for the first time that Achilles is untrue. She is overcome with sorrow and urges her mother at once to leave Aulis and return home. Achilles, who, in reality, adores her, comes to meet her and receives a cold and disdainful reception. He asks and learns the cause. Although his high honor keenly resents the sus picion, he denies the charge of faithlessness with much vehemence. Iphigenia is persuaded of the truth and is happy for a while in her regained confidence in him.
Agamemnon orders a feast to be prepared presumably for the solemnization of the nuptials. Iphigenia's mother comes to her on her wedding morning, voicing her delight that one born of a goddess shall call her mother through his troth to Iphigenia, and the people are loud in their praise and congratulation. Achilles brings his beloved friend Patroclus, " the rival of his fame and the sharer of his glory," to be presented to his bride.
Arcas, who well knows that the altar has been erected with a design far different than the plighting of two loving hearts, can no longer keep silence and reveals everything. Iphigenia retains her noble bearing even at this crisis, for she believes that her father loves her but that he is in the irresistible clutch of fate. The mother, however, throws
herself at Achilles' feet and implores him to protect the victim and to be not alone spouse to her but father as well, since she has none worthy the name.
Achilles assures her that he will defeat the purpose of a most unnatural parent, and in no measured terms upbraids Agamemnon, who resents his interference and proceeds with the arrangements for the sacrifice. At the last moment, his paternal tenderness conquers and prevails over his fear of heaven. He will keep the life the gods have required even though the interests of Greece be abandoned. Accordingly, he sends Arcas to take Iphigenia and Clytemnestra away from Aulis, secretly determining to die in his daughter's place. When the Greeks learn of this they cry indignantly that the goddess must be obeyed if her wrath is to be appeased. Iphigenia is willing to be offered and begs Achilles to take no steps for her deliverance, but to let her die for her people. The mighty Achilles, however, arises against the mob and just as they are about to fall upon him in turn, the voice of Calchas the soothsayer is heard. The gods are appeased by the virtues of the daughter, the tears of the mother and the valor and might of Achilles. The mar riage of Achilles and Iphigenia is no longer delayed, and in their union the Greeks see an omen of their future victory and renown.
" Iphigenia in Aulis " is an advance over the epoch making " Orpheo," the hearing of which Rousseau declared reconciled him to existence. The material contains greater possibilities, for there are more characters and more states of mind to be portrayed, while the supernatural element is almost entirely absent.
Gluck's genius is notably apparent in the overture, which comes to no complete stop in the stage representa tion, but for which, in order to make it available for concert purposes, endings have been contrived by Mozart, Wagner and others. Passages of notable beauty in the opera itself are : Clytemnestra's urging of Iphigenia to cast Achilles from her heart, " Let a Noble Courage Incite Thee; " Agamemnon's aria after his scene with Achilles when he is torn between love for his daughter and fear of the gods, " 0 Thou, the Best of All, and Dearest ;" Iphigenia's " Fare well; " Achilles' " The priest shall first be stricken down," upon hearing which " soldiers frequently rose from their seats, scarcely able to refrain from rushing on the stage;" the chorus of the Greeks, "Almighty gods, give ear!" and the final ballet