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Ausrine Stundyte as Cio-Cio-San, Elizabeth Janes as Butterfly’s child and Sarah Larsen as Suzuki in Seattle Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Photo by Elise Bakketun.
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The Return of Gluck: The Reformer Makes His Mark Anew in America's Opera Houses
Thomas May
Opera America Magazine

Gluck has been, in some ways, a victim of his success. He’s most typically cast in the role of “reformer” — which is to say, he’s secured a prominent place in music history books. We’re all familiar with the image of Gluck as a pivotal link between baroque excess and more modern sensibilities.

Yet such historically minded, linear thinking sometimes encourages the impression that Gluck is merely a transitional chapter — and one superseded by those he went on to inspire. Meanwhile, clichés of his music as the quintessence of “noble purity” can be offputting. They’re uncomfortably reminiscent of the impatience Peter Schaefer’s Mozart (in Amadeus) voices for composers who “sound as if they shit marble.”


About the Author: Thomas May writes and lectures about music and theater. He is the author of Decoding Wagner and The John Adams Reader.

Fall 2014 Magazine Issue
  • Are Women Different?
  • Preparing for Klinghoffer
  • Emerging Artists: Act One


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