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Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
Orphée et Eurydice (1762) (ed. Hector Berlioz (1859), Ballet music after the original versions (1762/1774))
Vesselina Kasarova (mezzo) – Orphée; Rosemary Joshua (soprano) – Eurydice; Deborah York (soprano) – L’amour.
Dancers: Betae Vollack – Orphée; Magdalena Padrosa – Eurydice; Stefanie Erb – L’amour;
Chorus from the Bavarian State Opera
Bavarian State Orchestra/Ivor Bolton;
Direction, Sets and Costumes: Nigel Lowery & Amir Hosseinpour;
Choreography: Amir Hosseinpour
Lighting design: Pat Collins
Video direction: Felix Breisach
No recording dates given. © 2003
Sound formats DTS 5.0 Surround; PCM Stereo; Picture format 16:9
FARAO CLASSICS D108045 [104:00]


Experience Classicsonline

Ivor Bolton has built up an enviable reputation as a leading exponent of the baroque and classicist periods’ operatic and vocal music. Here, with the Bavarian State Opera forces, playing on modern instruments, he gives as lively a reading as is possible, considering the rather oratorio-like music of this beautiful score. There are sensible tempos throughout and good playing but the recording tends to add a raw quality to the instruments – nothing to worry much about, though. The Bavarian State Opera Chorus – so important in Orphée et Euridice – are splendid.

Also the ballet plays an important part in this opera. In the Royal Stockholm Opera’s new production (review) director Mats Ek – himself a dancer and former leader of the Cullberg Ballet – had almost over-choreographed the opera. Sometimes I got the feeling that Orphée was relegated to the background. Here it isn’t that dominant but there are scenes that are striking. This is most so perhaps when they – the dancers – are furies, forming a full orchestra with instruments. In the dance of the blessed spirits they do dance with the instruments. Great fun and in that respect the Bavarian production and the Stockholm have the same basic attitude: the opera is a tragedy but it has its comic points.

Scenically it is very beautiful – but also unpredictable, mixing anachronisms. For instance: the opening chorus is sung by a statuesque mixed choir in tails, which enhances the oratorio feeling. Orphée is also in tails and few women singers can wear this formal male clothing more convincingly than Vesselina Kasarova. As a contrast a group of gentlemen later appear in ancient Greek togas and with laurel wreaths around their heads. When L’amour first enters the stage she is a clown, carrying a baby doll in her arms. Orphée in this version is a violinist, which makes one think of Offenbach’s operetta on the same topic. I really liked this rather disrespectful approach since it in no way obscured the central drama.

The operatic world is at present well endowed with excellent mezzo-sopranos and in the top layer Vesselina Kasarova has a definite position. She has stage presence, she is expressive, the voice is beautiful and she has a technical command that makes even the most complicated coloratura seem simple. Von Otter, in Stockholm as well as on the CD set with Gardiner (review), where she is marginally fresher, is in the same league and there may be others to reckon with, but for a superb DVD version Kasarova is something to wallow in.

And she isn’t the only one. Both Rosemary Joshua and Deborah York are in ravishing form so for anyone interested in this opera – and not being impartial to some hefty but amusing anachronisms – this is as good a DVD version as any I know of.

Göran Forsling 


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