Opting for the French-language version of Orpheus, David Alagna was faced with the task of achieving an appropriately subtle adaptation. In a plot transposed to the present day, Eurydice dies in a car accident on the day of her wedding and Orpheus's quest for his beloved is a dream beginning and ending at the cemetery. No happy ending in this interpretation, but a new approach to characterisation: Amore, sung by a baritone, becomes a funeral parlour employee and Orpheus' guide. Orpheus, of course, loses his loved one forever by turning to look back. World famous tenor Roberto Alagna throws himself body and soul into this production. His incredible vitality, flawless timbre and diction make him a great Orpheus. His partner, young Italian soprano Serena Gamberoni, is simply stunning as Eurydice, while French baritone Marc Barrard is suitably terrifying as the guide to the Underworld. The orchestra is conducted by Giampaolo Bisanti, who masterfully brings out all Gluck's poetry, romantic melancholy and depth.
Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) represents the first of a series of operatic successes by the German composer Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787). It is his best-known opera and his greatest reform work (first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762). Gluck broke every courtly convention governing the operatic art form of the time. He strove for naturalness and simplicity in both subject and music. Gluck liberated opera from its rigid confines, refrained from the pointless embellishment of arias, and replaced the recitativo secco with orchestral recitatives or recitativo accompagnato, creating through-composed forms of unprecedented drama. He also gave lyricism a greater significance in relation to the music. Gluck's importance in opera's overall history is matched only by Claudio Monteverdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner…
Gluck composed “Ezio” only one year after the success of “Orfeo”. It was premiered in 1763 at the Burgtheatre in Vienna. Although not as successful as “Orfeo” it contains many fine moments and this recording, in which Michael Hofstetter conducts a first rate cast, should introduce more opera listeners to this fine work. “….the representation of his (Gluck’s) early and middle years is patchy. All the more fitting then, to be able to welcome a thoroughly satisfactory issue of Ezio….. It is greatly to the credit of countertenor Franco Fagioli, who sings the part (Ezio, sung by the famous castrato Guadagni in the première) in this recording, that there is no sense of anticlimax: he produces firm, expressive singing, with delicacy where appropriate.” (International Record Review)
Gluck‘s wonderful but neglected 1774 opera Iphigénie en Tauride, inspired by the Greek legend, is treated with forceful and convincing simplicity in Klaus Guth‘s revolutionary production staged at the Zurich Opera House. The psychological drama in a tense atmosphere of fears and traumas is underlined by Guth‘s use of huge masks and enclosed spaces. Conductor William Christie and his typically transparent but never cold orchestral sound perfectly match the descriptive elements in Gluck’s score, while the Armenian mezzosoprano Juliette Galstian as a fabulously good Iphigénie, the leading American opera baritone Rodney Gilfry as Oreste and the deceased South African tenor Deon van der Walt as Pylade head a superb cast.