Tune of the Day: Dance of the Blessed Spirits
The gently pastoral “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” beautifully exemplifies Gluck's revolutionary principle that music and poetry should never overstate their message: any complexity needs to be justified by essential dramatic content. Listeners will perhaps be astonished to hear this tranquil music in an opera about Orpheus' journey to Hades, the realm of the dead, in search of his departed wife Eurydice. In fact, in Act II of Gluck's great opera Orfeo ed Euridice, the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” immediately follows the “Dance of Furies”, the vengeful spirits of Hades. Indeed, Greek mythology located Elysium, the world of the blessed, far from Hades. Gluck, however, follows the Homeric tradition, which places Elysium in the Underworld.
Written for solo flute with string accompaniment, this piece is in simple ternary form (ABA), the first part being an elegant, stately melody that conjures up images of pastoral tranquility under resplendent azure skies. The contrasting part that follows introduces an element of anguish that is perhaps an echo of the protagonist's earlier dialog with the Furies. However, as the first section is reiterated, the idyllic landscape reappears, perhaps suggesting that Orpheus' quest will be successful.