William Gluck was born in 1714 near the German-Bohemian border. He was enlightened composer who brought about new ideas to opera. His new ideas included changing the opera (opera seria) from being serious and reenacting ‘old theatre’ to a more fun and comical approach (opera buffa). The new styles focus was on “dramatic expression”.
The preface to Alceste was written to the Royal Highness for approval. Gluck thought that his new series of work was so special that he needed the royal highness to review it, since appreciation of the arts as well as further putting forth the study of the arts is important in European culture.
Gluck speaks about how he “wishes to abolish all the abuses against which good sense and reason have long cried out in vain”. He goes on to talk about how he “does not want to disturb the force and heat of the action” and wants to serve poetry by means of “expression” without stopping the flow to only be interrupted by instruments.
The new opera style should be proportioned equally throughout while not leaving gaps between arias and recitatives. His overall goal is to achieve a “beautiful simplicity” that is clear and concise. Lastly, he goes on to mention that his new concept is furthered by the liberetto.
Although Gluck was not the first to campaign for opera reforms, he was the one who brought about the radical change. His new works such as Alceste and Ordeo ed Euridice paved the way for new works.
It also had a strong influence on the French opera where Gluck wrote and directed operas until deciding to return to Vienna where he remained until his death in 1787.