As the case of the pastoral genre demonstrates, high art has periodically espoused an ideal of primitive simplicity. Whether such espousal signified a 'return' to 'nature', the nostalgia of the court society for the lost age of landed aristocracy, 1 or a pre-modern status anxiety, eighteenth-century polite society seemed periodically to yearn for a simpler 'golden age' and to enjoy injecting those values into artistic production, the opera being no exception. Yet for a genre and an institution whose self-definition was so closely bound to luxury, any such espousal was liable to provoke a conflict of ideals, for the nobility of the genre and its material luxury were agreed by the vast majority of commentators to be essential for reasons of state cultural prestige and institutional hierarchy. This chapter looks back to theoretical discussions and practical experiments from the previous decade to examine debates in the course of which Gluck's opera was also perceived and judged according to this criterion of 'primitive simplicity'. The issue was already apparent in 1774, Gluck's dedication of Orphée claiming that his music aimed to 'return art to its original dignity', 2 but came to the fore in discussions of Aheste in 1776. Of course, simplicity has long been the watchword for discussions of Alceste in particular, both in terms of the musical practice of the opera and as an aesthetic statement in Gluck's widely circulated preface. The issue has however primarily been discussed as a matter of neoclassicism, a discussion which implicitly places Gluck at the heart of a pan-European aesthetic shift starting in mid-century in Germany with Winckelmann's writings on Antiquity. 3 As I shall argue here, however, the specifically Parisian threads of the call for simplicity are more complex and widespread. There was, for instance, nothing specifically neoclassical about detractors' claims that Gluck was lacking in song whilst approving the simplicity his works demonstrated (the Ancients, by contrast, were widely held to have a melodious theatrical declamation, as the discussion of Arnaud, in Chapter 1, has demonstrated). Nor did Greece and the so-called 'retour a l'Antique', although undoubtedly the most evident cultural context for commentators, provide the template for critiques of versification and word-setting which also traverse debates in 1774—76, since almost nothing of substance was known about Ancient 'musical declamation' — to the continuing frustration of Academicians. Finally, when Piccinni was invited to Paris at the end of the period covered by this chapter, it was by no means as a 'modern' opponent to the 'classical' Gluck, but rather an alternative means of achieving many of the same ultimate aesthetic ideals, such as a revival of music-theatre based upon classical 101plots, but by different musico-dramatic means. In short, whilst Gluck did indeed lay claim to the status of heir of Antiquity, the principles he espoused and was held to represent opened up issues deriving from a range of other cultural sources. Accordingly, a wider sample of historical and cultural discussions will be offered here, spanning theories of stadial history, discussions of Ossian and other 'primitive' poetry, musico-dramatic reforms which took various 'Nordic' elements of history for their plot — Poinsinet's and Philidor's famous 'reform' work Emelinde (1767, but substantially overhauled in 1773 and then further revised in 1777) being the most obvious — and which were not immediately assimilable to Italian or French antecedents; and contemporary discussions of Shakespeare, retranslated with royal support in 1776, a model to which Gluck was explicitly assimilated, both in praise and in jest. I would like to suggest that these discussions provided a forum for Parisian opinion to debate 'primitive simplicity' as an aesthetic ideal which went far beyond a quarrel between 'Ancients' and 'Moderns' but which also implied economic debates over luxury, administrative questions over guild regulation in the case of music theatre, and finally the desirability or otherwise of imitating Nordic and other primitive cultures with their concomitant 'roughness' and simple but expressive poetry.