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Ifigenia in Tauride (‘Iphigenia in Tauris’)(i)locked

  • Marita P. McClymonds

Extract

Opera seria in three acts by Tommaso Traetta to a libretto by Marco Coltellini; Vienna, Schönbrunn, 4 October 1763.

Predating Gluck’s Alceste (1767), Traetta’s Ifigenia was the first full-length opera seria performed in Vienna to incorporate French elements. Choruses figure prominently as independent pieces and in combinations with soloists and ensembles, contributing collective commentary. The scene complexes are various, drawing on the options of chorus, dance, obbligato recitative, ensemble, cavatina and aria. The opera has much French-inspired spectacle including a storm and a ghost scene for chorus with a Dance of the Furies. The dramaturgy is otherwise Italianate. Wind instruments are prominent in obbligato recitatives and arias, intensifying ghostly imaginings, frightful memories, terrifying spectres and dread of future events. The sinfonia in D major foreshadows a happy outcome, but the G minor aria for Pilade [Pylades] (soprano castrato) in the first scene casts a gloomy tone. The tritone relationship between the A major of Iphigenia’s ministers and the E♭ major of the soldiers of Toante [Thoas] (tenor) announcing Pylades’ death immediately identifies the opposing forces. Flat keys, particularly E♭, persist, and the first two acts conclude in C major. Iphigenia sings in A major as she kills the tyrant Thoas, preparing for a resolution at last in the key of D....

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