Iphigénie en Aulide (Iphigeneia in Aulis) is an opera in three acts by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the first work he wrote for the Paris stage. The libretto was written by François-Louis Gand Le Bland Du Roullet and was based on Jean Racine's tragedy Iphigénie, itself based on the play Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides. It was premiered on 19 April 1774 by the Paris Opéra in the second Salle du Palais-Royal and revived in a slightly revised version the following year.

Frontespizio Ifigenia in Aulide

A German version was made in 1847 by Richard Wagner, with significant alterations.

Performance history


At first, Iphigénie was not popular, except for its overture which was applauded generously.[1] After the premiere, it was billed for three days in April 1774, but its first run was interrupted by the theatre's six-week closure due to the dying of Louis XV.[1] Iphigénie en Aulide returned to the theatre on 10 January 1775, and was revived annually from 1776 to 1824 with a few exceptions. During that 50-year span from 1774 to 1824, it was performed in Paris more than 400 times,[1] and eventually turned out to be Gluck's most frequently performed opera in Paris.[2]

For the 1775 revival, "Gluck revised Iphigénie en Aulide ... introducing the goddess Diana (soprano) at the end of the opera as a dea ex machina, and altering and expanding the divertissements ... So, broadly speaking, there are two versions of the opera; but the differences are by no means so great or important as those between Orfeo ed Euridice and Orphée et Euridice or between the Italian and the French Alceste".[3]

In 1847 Richard Wagner presented a revised German version of Gluck's opera, Iphigenia in Aulis, at the court of Dresden. Wagner edited, re-scored and revised the opera significantly including a different ending and some other passages of his own composition. Wagner's version of the opera is available on Eichhorn's 1972 LP recording starring Anna Moffo and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,[4] and was also revived at the 1984 Waterloo Festival with Alessandra Marc as Iphigenia. [5] Wagner's finale translated back into French was also performed in the 2002/2003 La Scala production conducted by Riccardo Muti.[6]

Iphigénie en Aulide was first performed in the United States on 22 February 1935 at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia. The fully staged production was presented by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Alexander Smallens. Directed by Herbert Graf, it used sets by Norman Bel Geddes and starred Georges Baklanoff as Agamemnon, Cyrena van Gordon as Clytemnestre, Rosa Tentoni as Iphigénie, Joseph Bentonelli as Achille, and Leonard Treash as Patrocle.


Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, presumed to be of Sophie Arnould. (Wallace Collection)
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 19 April 1774[7] Conductor: Louis-Joseph Francœur)
(Choreograph: Gaétan Vestris)
Agamemnon, King of Mycenae baritone Henri Larrivée
Clitemnestre (Clytemnestra), his wife soprano Françoise-Claude-Marie-Rosalie Campagne (called Mlle Duplant)
Iphigénie (Iphigenia), their daughter soprano Sophie Arnould
Achille (Achilles), a Greek hero haute-contre Joseph Legros
Patrocle (Patroclus) bass Durand
Calchas, the High Priest bass Nicolas Gélin
Arcas bass Beauvalet
Three Greek women sopranos Marie-Françoise de Beaumont d'Avantois; Rosalie Levasseur (other performer unknown)
A Lesbian slave woman soprano Mlle Chateauneuf
Greek soldiers and people; Thessalian warriors; women from Argos; women from Aulis; men, women and slaves from Lesbos; priestesses of Diana:[8] choir


The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia by Tiepolo (Schloss Weimar)

Calchas, the great seer, prophesies that King Agamemnon must sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, in order to guarantee fair winds for the king's fleet en route to Troy –- a demand that comes from the goddess Diana herself. Throughout the opera, Agamemnon struggles with the terrible choice between sparing his daughter's life and ensuring his subjects' welfare.

Agamemnon summons his daughter to Aulis, the port where the Greek navy is gathering, ostensibly for her to marry Achilles, the great warrior hero. Then, reconsidering his decision to sacrifice her, the king tries to prevent her arriving with the fabricated explanation that Achilles has been unfaithful. Iphigenia, however, has already reached the Greek camp accompanied by her mother Clytemnestra. The two women are dismayed and angered by Achilles' apparent inconstancy, but he eventually enters declaring his enduring love for the girl, and the first act ends with a tender scene of reconciliation.

The wedding ceremony is due to be celebrated and festivities take place with dances and choruses. When the couple are about to proceed to the temple, however, Arcas, the captain of Agamemnon's guards, reveals that the king is awaiting his daughter before the altar in order to kill her. Achilles and Clytemnestra rush to save the girl from being sacrificed. Agamemnon finally seems to give up his plan to kill her.

The third act opens with a chorus of Greeks: they object to the king's decision in case they are never allowed to reach Troy, and demand the ceremony be celebrated. At this point, Iphigenia resigns herself to her fate, and offers her own life for the sake of her people, while Clytemnestra entreats the vengeance of Jupiter upon the ruthless Greeks. As the sacrifice is going to be held, however, Achilles bursts in with his warriors and the opera concludes with Gluck's most significant revision of the original myth: Calchas' voice rises over the general turmoil and announces that Diana has changed her mind about the sacrifice and consents to the marriage. In the second 1775 version Diana appears personally to consecrate both the wedding and Agamemnon's voyage.






  1. ^ a b c Pitou, p. 288
  2. ^ Blanchetti.
  3. ^ Hayes, p. 817; cf. also Blanchetti.
  4. ^ Later CD: Eurodisc, 352 988; Bmg Rca, 74 321–32 236–2. A new recording conducted by Christoph Spering was released by Oehms Classics in 2013.
  5. ^ Will Crutchfield, "Concert: Wagner's Resetting of Gluck's Iphigenie", The New York Times, July 23, 1984
  6. ^ Leonetta Bentivoglio, (in Italian) "Ifigenia travolta dagli applausi", La Repubblica, 8 December 2002.
  7. ^ Roles and premiere cast from Kobbés, Hayes, Blanchetti and Italianopera.org (accessed 6 May 2011).
  8. ^ Gherardo Casaglia, Almanacco. The role of Diana, introduced in the 1775 second version of the opera, was performed by Alice Berelli.
  9. ^ Lajarte, p. 277


  • Blanchetti, Francesco (in Italian), Iphigénie en Aulide, in Piero Gelli and Filippo Poletti (eds) (2007), Dizionario dell'opera 2008, Milan: Baldini Castoldi Dalai, pp. 1176–1177, ISBN 978-88-6073-184-5 (the article is reproduced online at OperaManager.com)
  • Harewood, Earl of, and Peattie, Antony (eds) (1997), The New Kobbés Opera Book, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 978-0-399-14332-8
  • Hayes, Jeremy, Iphigénie en Aulide, in Stanley, Sadie (ed.) (1997), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, New York: Oxford University Press. Vol. II, pp. 816–819 ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2
  • Lajarte, Théodore (1878) (in French), Bibliothèque Musicale du Théatre de l'Opéra. Catalogue Historique, Chronologique, Anecdotique, Parigi: Librairie des bibliophiles. Tome I (accessible for free on-line at Internet Archive)
  • Pitou, Spire (1985), The Paris Opéra. An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers – Rococo and Romantic, 1715–1815, Westport/London: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-24394-8