In the 1770s, the directors of the Royal Academy of Music in Paris hatched a plan. Christoph Willibald Gluck lived in Paris from 1774-1779, and enjoyed successful runs of his operas while there.
The directors decided to spice things up a bit by moving Niccolo Piccinni to Paris, creating a rivalry between the two popular operatic composers. Even better, they wanted Piccini and Gluck to write operas based on the same story: "Iphigenia in Tauris," a Greek tale of mythology and the aftermath of the Trojan war written by Euripides.
The rivalry spilled into Parisian culture, pitting so-called Gluckists against so-called Piccinnists.
But Gluck had the upper-hand; he had a head start on the libretto, and Gluck's opera, "Iphigenie en Tauride," opened two years ahead of Piccinni's. Although Gluck had moved away from Paris by the time of Piccinni's premiere, the rivalry continued past Gluck's death in 1787.
Saturday at 12:00 p.m. central, The Metropolitan Opera will present Gluck's "Iphigenie en Tauride" in a live broadcast on Classical Minnesota Public Radio. The star-studded cast includes Susan Graham as Iphigenie, and the just-turned 70 year-old Placido Domingo as Oreste.