Here we have the first complete recording of Gluck's charming one-act serenata teatrale for chamber orchestra and four treble voices, composed for the marriage of Hapsburg Archduke Joseph in January 1765. The Archduke's first wife had died. This time he was to marry the Bavarian princess, Maria Josepha. For this performance of the new Gluck work, four of the Archduke's daughters from his first marriage who were all accomplished musicians, sang roles in the new work. The new bridegroom's younger brother Leopold, conducted. That the four Archduchesses could successfully negotiate the florid soprano roles Gluck fashioned for them, is most impressive. One presumes that the youngest daughter, Marie Antoinette, was not so gifted. The serenata teatrale was presented as a surprise to the newly weds at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in the presence of the rest of the Hapsburg court. It was deemed such a success, that on the spot, Gluck was asked to compose another opera. The result was La Corona. The work was planned for November, but because the Emperor died suddenly, the work was not performed.
Admirers of Gluck the reformer may be surprised by this thoroughly Baroque, extremely florid opera composed by him in 1765 (three years after Orfeo ed Euridice changed the landscape of opera forever). La corona , Gluck's setting of Metastasio's one-act azione teatrale (the master librettist's own term for a serenata with a plot), was commissioned by Queen Maria Theresa as a name-day gift for the emperor. Though is also styled an azione teatrale , the two operas could hardly be more different. Considering that La corona contains as treacherously difficult a collection of florid arias as can be found in any score of the period, it's hard to credit that it was created specifically to be sung by the three royal princesses; even the most adept prime donne of the period would have struggled to master its score. Due to the sudden death of the emperor, La corona was shelved and never performed in Gluck's lifetime. Atypically for a score of this quality and complexity, the composer mined relatively little of it for future works, with a notable exception in his transformation of the second part of the overture into the love duet in Paride ed Elena .