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Gluck,  Iphigénie en Tauride:  Orchestra Principado de Asturias. Chorus Opera Oviedo. Conductor,  Jane Glover. Teatro Campoamor. 18.12.2007 (JMI)

New Production at Opera de Oviedo

Director. Emilio Sagi.
Sets: Luis Antonio Suárez.
Costumes: Pepa Ojanguren.
Lighting: Eduardo Bravo.


Iphigénie: Elisabete Matos.
Oreste: Gabriel Bermúdez.
Pylade: Paul Nilon.
Thoas: Víctor García Sierra.

As has happened on  many other occasions throughout  opera history, a work sometimes sleeps,  completely forgotten by the public, until of a sudden it starts to come to life again, normally at the  hand of an important artist. Lately Gluck’s Iphigenie is having a “popularity” it never enjoyed before, with the exception of the time of its premiere in Paris during the ebd of the 18th century. There was an attempt to revive it when Riccardo Muti opened the La Scala opera season in 1992, but soon the work soon went back to obscurity. To my knowledge during the last 20 years,  Iphigenie en Tauride has been only programmed once in Spain, and that was in Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela. Surprisingly  during the past two years, American mezzo -soprano Susan Graham decided to identify herself – at least on stage - with Elektra`s sister and now  we are seeing regular revivals of Gluck’s work: in Chicago, Covent Garden, Paris, the Metropolitan, and also San Francisco and Seattle. At last  Iphigenie en Tauride comes to Spain, although without the great Texan artist. Will it remain in the main repertoire? The work does not lack quality but let us wait for the moment.

Oviedo presents a new production with stage direction by Emilio Sagi. It is a simple setting with big grey walls on the sides, very lavish and modern costumes though always in black and an outstanding lighting. The action is moved to modern times, which is more than acceptable, since the plot us a true timeless tragedy. To emphasize the drama, Sagi has the stage always darkened and he works very effectively with members of the chorus, who become opera's  real protagonists. From an aesthetic point of view, the production works really well, although by the end there is a slight feeling of monotony. I should mention too the more and more frequent use of  directors bare chested male singers: it seems there are no productions nowadays where we are not offered beautiful topless  men, especially if Simon Keenlyside, Nathan Gunn, Erwin Schrott or Teddy Tahu Rhodes are on stage, as happened some years ago with Samuel Ramey. To this glamorous list we should add now a new member, Gabriel Bermúdez, who can compete with advantage with his colleagues.

Jane Glover directed a good performance, obtaining a result from the orchestra that was difficult to believe after listening to them in the recent Lucia di Lammermoor. Could anyone believe that this was the same orchestra? Ms. Glover offered an interesting reading of the score, where all the music flowed in a very natural way. The chorus did their best, although they do not seem quite ready yet for such a difficult opera. Even so, a few years back, it would have been impossible to program Iphigenie in Oviedo simply because the chorus is so important.

The Portuguese soprano Elisabete Matos was Iphigenie and lived the character completely, as is normal for her. Her voice is good in the middle, and  although there are some notes at the “pasaggio” that are not too attractive, she is clearly an artist worthy of a more important career.

Spanish baritone Gabriel Bermúdez was Oreste and  besides his spectacular muscles, he showed a beautiful voice and good taste using it, with very good French diction. His biggest problem lies with his limited vocal volume, being almost inaudible at certain moments when the orchestra / chorus is loud. British tenor Paul Nilon was a pleasant Pylade, with a good and nicely even voice. He is a good singer and but he too also has problems with  limited power.

Victor García Sierra was a rather poor King Thoas with little  vocal quality, particularly in the higher range and he is not a polished singer. Liliana Rugiero was better as Diana (with amplified sound) than as First Priestess, while Marta Ubieta was a remarkable Second Priestess.

The Teatro Campoamor was sold out, as it is usual during the season and there was a warm reception for all the singers, especially for Ms. Matos. I found rather unjust that Jane Glover had more or less the  same reception than Maestro Rizzi Brignoli in Lucia last month.

José M. Irurzun


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