Lebensbeschreibung seinem Sohne in die Feder diktiert

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
1801 (facsimile Regensburg, 1940)
Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Mus 2300.15.41

Click for full-size imageThe satirical one-act opera Le Cinesi (The Chinese Women, 1754), with music by Christoph Willibald Gluck and libretto by Pietro Metastasio, is set in an imaginary China in which the protagonists imitate the latest European musical styles. Dittersdorf's autobiography includes a detailed recollection of a performance of this opera:
I still have before my eyes the exquisite performance of Le cinesi, the slight comic opera, arranged by Metastasio from his play "Il Ballo Chinese," and set to music by Gluck. Quaglio's decorations were quite in the Chinese taste, and transparent. Workers in lacquer, carpenters and gliders, had lavished all their resources upon them, but their chief brilliancy depended on prismatic poles of glass, which had been polished by Bohemian craftsmen, and were carefully fitted into one another in empty places, previously soaked in colored oils. They were very effective, even in sunshine and the broad light of day, but no pen can describe the surpassing and astounding brilliancy of these prisms when lit up by innumerable lamps. The reader must imagine the reflected brilliancy of the azure–coloured meadows of lacquer, the glitter of the gilded foliage, and, lastly, the rainbow-like colours repeated by hundreds of prisms, and flashing like diamonds of the finest water. The most vivid fancy will fall short of the real magic. And then, Gluck's god-like music! It was not only the delicious playfulness of the sparkling symphony, accompanied now and again by little bells, triangles, small hand-drums, etc., sometimes singly, sometimes all together, which, at the very outset, and before the raising of the curtain, transported the audience: the music was from first to last an enchantment.

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Related items:

Multimedia: More about Le cinesi

Multimedia: Hear Dittersdorf's Review