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Opera in three acts: by Christoph Willibald Gluck.
Admetos, King of Phera, who is lying dangerously ill, causes an inquiry to be made of the oracle of Apollo as to the issue of his illness, and is told in reply that he will die unless some one can be found who would willingly lay down his life for him. Although the whole country bewails the threatened fate of its sovereign no one comes forward to save him at this terrible price. At length Alceste, the devoted wife of the unhappy King, nobly offers to sacrifce herself for his sake. Admetos in consequence is restored to health, but Alceste, on the evening of the same day, is ordered by the high priest to descend into the underworld. In vain the King implores his beloved wife to give up her resolve. As all his remonstrances prove fruitless, he determines to die with her. The spirits of the underworld have already got possession of their victim and are carrying her off. Admetos strides to gain admittance, but the entrance is barred against him.
At this moment his friend Heracles appears, who is justly celebrated far and near for his prodigious strength, a proof of which he will now give, having heard what has happened. He consoles the despairing King and rushes after the vanishing Alceste. A hot contest ensues, but finally Heracles seizes the god of death in his strong arms and restores the wife to her husband. Apollo, appearing in a cloud, praises the courageous friend and the faithful pair, promising them everlasting honor.
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