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Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice
Philippe Jaroussky – Orfeo
Amanda Forsythe – Euridice
Emőke Baráth – Amore
Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera & I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
rec. 2016/17, Auditorio “Stelio Molo” RSI, Lugano-Besso, Switzerland
World premiere recording of the Naples Court Theatre Version of 1774
ERATO 9029566023 [77.38]

Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, in whatever version, is based upon the ancient Greek tale that has repeatedly, beginning with Peri’s Euridice (the earliest known opera) provided the inspiration for numerous composers.

The first thing that must be stated is that this is not the normal version of Gluck’s masterpiece which was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on October 5, 1762, but the version that was performed some twelve years later in Naples. This version was arranged for performance in front of Neapolitan royalty and the well-to-do and differs from both the original and the version performed in Paris in the same year 1774. The opera is regarded as Gluck’s most popular work, as well as the most influential on the development of German Opera; it was the first of his so called ‘reform’ operas, in that it did away with silly plots and complex and dense music in favour of simplified plots. The libretto is by the opera’s original librettist, Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, and is here described as a ‘Dramma in musica’ in seven scenes rather than the three acts of the other versions of the opera; it features some significant changes, especially in the third act which is drastically cut, with this version of the opera lasting around thirty minutes less than the original Viennese or even the Paris version. These cuts, for me, spoil the integrity of the opera and the flow, especially in the music of act three; gone is the wonderful duet between Orfeo and Euridice which is replaced with a complex and grandiose set piece, which seems at odds with Gluck’s search for ‘noble simplicity’, as well as this Euridice’s short, but not insignificant act three aria, also missing is some of the dance music. The most well known and popular numbers are still included, after all these are what made the opera famous, it is just the linking passages that are rearranged or missing altogether.

As to the performance, right from his opening cries of Euridice! in the first scene, Philippe Jaroussky is at his imperious best, here he embodies the sorrow of Orfeo as he laments the loss of his beloved Euridice; this is especially evident in his famous aria ‘Che faro sense Euridice’, colouring his voice as the opera continues to display the whole gambit of emotions his character is put through. Amanda Forsythe is excellent in her portrayal of the doomed heroine, especially in her final scene aria ‘Senza un addio?’ The other soloist Emőke Baráth as Amore is well matched to the main soloists and brings off her aria ‘Gli sguardi trattieni … Sai pur che talora’ with ease and great sensitivity. The chorus and orchestra are also in excellent form under the direction of Diego Fasolis, who tries his best to keep the action moving.

The presentation is wonderful, it comes in the form of a lavishly illustrated 104-page hardback book that contains excellent notes, synopsis and full text with translations. The recorded sound is very good too, indeed the only thing that lets this recording down is the work itself. I have René Jacobs’ excellent recording of the 1762 version (HMY292174243), as well as the DVD of the Berlioz edition by John Eliot Gardiner (2 165779 5). This recording is really only for Gluck completists or Jaroussky fans, as for me the heavy cuts detract too much from the original to be recommendable for anyone seeking the opera, that would be Jacobs’ recording.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Brian Wilson

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