The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Iphigenia in Aulis

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IPHIGENIA IN AULIS and IPHIGENIA IN TAURIS, operas by Christoph von Gluck, produced in Paris in 1774 and 1779, respectively, the latter being a continuation of the first. The plot is based on the Greek legend of Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. To avert the wrath of the goddess Artemis (twin-sister of Apollo), whom Agamemnon had angered by killing a consecrated hind, Iphigenia was demanded as a sacrifice on the altar, pending which Artemis held the Greek fleet destined for Troy in the harbor at Aulis. Calchas, the High Priest of Artemis tells Agamemnon that a favorable wind will come only after the sacrifice. Iphigenia is prepared to immolate herself, but her lover, Achilles, forces his way through the crowd to save her, when she is miraculously conveyed in a cloud to Tauris to become a priestess to Artemis there in the temple of the barbarous Scythians. In the second opera Iphigenia has served 15 years in performing the rites of offering human sacrifices when her brother Orestes falls into her hands, together with his friend Pylades. She does not know her brother, nor that he had slain his mother and fled, pursued by the furies. Just as she is about to stab Orestes, he declares himself, and the knife falls from her hand. Thoas, king of the Scythians, rejects her entreaties and commands that both she and her brother shall die. His design is frustrated by the return of Pylades — who had been suffered to depart — with some of his countrymen, and the king is slain. Diana intervenes with her protection and permits brother and sister to return home. The Tauris is by many critics considered to be Gluck's masterpiece.