Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Il trionfo di Clelia (1763)
Clelia - Hélène Le Corre (soprano)
Orazio - Mary-Ellen Nesi (mezzo)
Tarquinio - Irini Karaianni (mezzo)
Larissa - Burçu Uyar (soprano)
Porsenna - Vassilis Kavayas (tenor)
Mannio - Florin Cezar Ouatu
Armonia Atenea/Giuseppe Sigismondi de Risio
rec. 13-19 July 2011, Megaron Centre, Athens
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG6091733-2 [3 CDs: 76:23 + 76:43 + 51:23]
It is inevitable that prolific composers will be widely known for just a small proportion of their output; the great opera reformer Gluck is no exception. Written for the opening of the Teatro Communale in Bologna in May 1763, Il trionfo di Clelia was therefore completed the year after he had written the famous Orfeo for Vienna. The latter is hugely popular, whereas this new recording brings the opportunity to discover an unknown opera.
The libretto is the work of Pietro Metastasio, that most prolific of 18th century writers for the opera houses of Europe. It is a tale of love and duty, of personal loyalty tested in the context of the Siege of Rome. The priorities of the new work were to show off the most up to date technology of the new theatre. For example during the second act the collapsing bridge leads to the need to swim across the River Tiber in order to survive: a true test of heroism. Then there were the singers assembled by the Bologna management, whose virtuosity was of paramount concern.
In the light of this, anyone with a passing knowledge of operatic history and Gluck’s role as a reformer, who took the older seria style towards a closer liaison of music and drama, will be curious to know what Il trionfo di Clelia has to offer. The answer is that it gives us further confirmation of imagination and mastery by this splendid composer.
This performance from Athens is directed with a lively momentum by Giuseppe Sigismondi de Risio. The musicians of the original-instrument band Armonia Atenea acquit themselves with distinction. There is no lack of drama in delivering the quasi-military aspects of the score, which come to the fore during the overture and at regular intervals thereafter. Also the attention to detail of dynamic and textural sharing, and of instrumental colouring, gains from this subtle and warmly recorded acoustic.
The singers too seem inspired by their voyage of discovery. Clearly an element of vocal virtuosity was one of the opera’s priorities, and there is never any suggestion that such enthusiasms are denied in this performance. As such, several of the performances must be every inch as heroic as those experienced at Bologna in 1763, not least the leading soprano role of Clelia, brilliantly realized by Hélène de Corre. Irini Karaianni runs her close and the rest of the cast seem wholly in sympathy with their characters.
The question is: does this opera represent the discovery of one of the era’s great operas? Only time will tell, and anyone acquiring this recording will be well placed to make that judgement.  

Terry Barfoot 

Inspired by a voyage of discovery.