Écho et Narcisse

Écho et Narcisse (Echo and Narcissus) is a 1779 drame lyrique in three acts, the last original opera written by Christoph Willibald Gluck, his sixth for the French stage. The libretto, written by Louis-Théodore de Tschudi, tells the story of the love between Echo and Narcissus.

Cover page of a 1779 edition of the opera's score

Performance historyEdit

Écho et Narcisse was first performed on 24 September 1779 by the Paris Opéra in the second Salle du Palais-Royal. The opera is in the pastoral tradition, a genre not in favor at the Opéra at the time,[1] and it was a failure, discontinued after only 12 performances. Gluck decided to go back to Vienna and never returned to Paris. He revised the work for 8 August 1780, but this version only enjoyed nine performances.

A third version was presented to the public on 8 June 1781. This was better received. However, it was infrequently produced until René Jacobs revived it in 1987 at the Schwetzingen Festival. Jacobs used the revised version as the original one has not survived, except for the libretto.


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 24 September 1779[2]
Écho, a nymph, ruler of the woods and waters soprano Mlle Beaumesnil
Aglaé, a nymph, friend of Écho soprano Adelaïde Gavaudan 'cadette'
Eglé, a nymph, friend of Écho soprano Anne-Marie-Jeanne Gavaudan, 'L'aînée'
Amour (Cupid) soprano Gertrude Girardin
Narcisse, a hunter, son of Cephisus haute-contre Étienne Lainez
Cynire, friend of Narcisse haute-contre Joseph Legros
Sylphie, a nymph soprano
Thanais, a nymph soprano
Two sylvans bass
Auguste-Athanase (Augustin) Chéron
Jean-Joseph Rousseau [it][3]
Sylphs, Zephyrs and attendants and followers of Amour, Écho and Narcisse.
Ballet[4]ballerinas: Marie-Madeleine Guimard, Anne Heinel, Marie Allard, Peslin;
male dancers: Gaetano Vestris, Auguste Vestris, Maximilien Gardel, Jean D'Auberval


The nymph Écho is loved by Narcisse, but also desired by Apollo. Apollo puts a spell on Narcisse so he falls in love with his own reflection, but Cupid is eventually successful in securing a happy ending by re-uniting Écho and Narcisse.



  1. ^ Rushton 2001, p. 327.
  2. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Écho et Narcisse, 24 September 1779". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  3. ^ Gustave Chouquet, Histoire de la musique dramatique en France depuis ses origines jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1873, p. 362 (online Gallica)
  4. ^ Lajarte, 1878, p. 312


  • Lajarte, Théodore, "Écho et Narcisse", Bibliothèque Musicale du Théatre de l'Opéra. Catalogue Historique, Chronologique, Anecdotique, Paris, Librairie des bibliophiles, 1878, pp. 311–312, vol. I (in French)
  • Rushton, Julian (2001). "Christoph Willibald Gluck", pp. 313–327, in The New Penguin Opera Guide, edited by Amanda Holden. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140514759.

Further readingEdit

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