Paride ed Elena

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Paride ed Elena (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːride eˈdɛːlena]; Paris and Helen) is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the third and final of his Italian reformist works, following Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste. Like its predecessors, its libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. The opera tells the story of the events between the Judgment of Paris and the flight of Paris and Helen to Troy. It was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 3 November 1770.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 3 November 1770[1]
(Conductor: – )
Paride (Paris), son of King Priam of Troy soprano castrato Giuseppe Millico
Elena (Helen), Queen of Sparta soprano Katherina Schindler
Cupid, under the name of Erasto, Helen's confidant soprano Teresa Kurz
Pallas Athene, the goddess soprano Gabriella Tagliaferri
A Trojan soprano

Synopsis[edit]

The hero Paris is in Sparta, having chosen Aphrodite above Hera and Athena, sacrificing to Aphrodite and seeking, with the encouragement of Erasto, the love of Helen. Paris and Helen meet at her royal palace and each is struck by the other's beauty. She calls on him to judge an athletic contest and when asked to sing he does so in praise of her beauty, admitting the purpose of his visit is to win her love. She dismisses him. In despair Paris now pleads with her, and she begins to give way. Eventually, through the intervention of Erasto, who now reveals himself as Cupid, she gives way, but Pallas Athene (Athena) now warns them of sorrow to come. In the final scene Paris and Helen make ready to embark for Troy.

Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) is the third of Gluck's so-called reform operas for Vienna, following Alceste (Alcestis) and Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice), and the least often performed of the three. Arias from the opera that enjoy an independent concert existence include Paris's minor-key declaration of love, O del mio dolce ardor (O of my gentle love), in the first act. His second aria is Spiagge amate (Beloved shores). In the second act, again in a minor key, Paris fears that he may lose Helen in Le belle imagini (The fair semblance) and in the fourth would prefer death to life without Helen, Di te scordarmi, e vivere (To forget you and to live). The rôle of Paris offers difficulties of casting, written, as it was, for a relatively high castrato voice. Arias of Paris have been adapted by tenors, with transposition an octave lower, or appropriated by sopranos and mezzo-sopranos.

Recordings[edit]

  • Magdalena Kožená (Paride), Susan Gritton (Elena), Carolyn Sampson (Amore), Gillian Webster (Pallade/Un Trojano); Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh (Deutsche Grammophon Archiv, 2005)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roles and premiere cast from The New Kobbés Opera Book (1997), Earl of Harewood and Antony Peattie, eds. (G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York) and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1997), Grove (Oxford University Press: New York).