Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice
(Premiere recording of the version performed at Naples, 1774)
Orfeo - Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor)
Euridice - Amanda Forsythe (soprano)
Amore - Emöke Baráth (soprano)
Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera
I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
rec. 19-29 September 2016 and 19-21 July 2017, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI,
Lugano Besso, Switzerland. DDD.
Text and translations included
[77:38] When limited de luxe edition is exhausted catalogue number
Quite some time ago Philippe Jaroussky had a walk-on part as Speranza in a
recording of Monteverdi’s Orfeo directed by Jean-Claude Malgoire
(Dynamic CDS477, download only, or 33477, DVD). Last year he gave us an
album of arias from operas on the Orpheus theme by Sartori, Monteverdi and
Rossi (La Storia di Orfeo, Erato 9029585190).
Now, with the same forces plus Amanda Forsythe, he brings us the Gluck
opera, and in a form hitherto unrecorded. This is not the Vienna original
(1762), the expanded Paris version (1774), or the conflated version to
which we are accustomed. For a revival in Parma in 1769 and again in
Naples in 1774 the title role was rewritten for a male soprano and in
Naples extra numbers were inserted, by JC Bach and others, but the original
for three soloists was retained.
Who better to perform this 1774 Orfeo than Philippe Jaroussky with
his very high counter-tenor voice? Shakespeare tells us that:
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves, when he did sing:
Here it’s not the trees and mountain tops that yield to his voice but the
Furies who bar his way to the underworld. The Swiss Radio Chorus and Diego
Fassolis’ I Barocchisti present these extremely dramatically but
Jaroussky’s Orfeo calms them most convincingly.
If you haven’t yet encountered Jaroussky’s voice, I recommend sampling
first. Try, if you can, track 12 on which he placates the Furies. It’s
something of an acquired taste, but I became convinced long ago; his
singing and that of Danielle de Niese convinced me that Monteverdi’s Poppea, an opera which I had tended to underrate, was the equal of
his Orfeo and Ulisse –
DL News 2012/21. The Naples audience expected some more florid touches in the title role,
and Jaroussky supplies these admirably.
Amanda Forsythe as Euridice is in every way his equal. Indeed, in Senza un addio and her subsequent duet with Orfeo, Piů frenarmi non posso, she almost out-sings him, making the most of
the additional music that Gluck gave Euridice in 1774. But then Jaroussky
gives us a most compelling Che farň senza Euridice? At the risk of
an unintended pun, this is singing to die for.
Emöke Baráth as Amore has much less to do than on last year’s multi-Orfeo
album, but she makes the most of what she has with one of the best accounts
of Gli sguardi trattieni that you are likely to hear.
I’ve already referred to the power of the chorus in barring Orfeo’s way.
They are equally effective, in very different mood, in the concluding Trionfi Amore! The orchestral support
under Diego Fasolis’ direction
is everywhere first-rate. To date I have been able only to hear this
recording in streamed mp3 but I have no doubt that the CD sounds very fine.
The booklet is a lavish affair with many colour illustrations. I could
have done with fewer of these for a larger font in the libretto.
This won’t – can’t – be my only recording of Gluck’s Orfeo.
Sometimes I shall still turn to the Vienna original, economically presented
by Arnold Östman and the Drottningholm Chorus and Orchestra on a single CD
(Naxos 8.660064) or, slightly more expensively on a budget twofer, René
Jacobs’ recording on Harmonia Mundi, the 1762 original plus shortened
ballet music. The beautiful playing of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, so
light on their feet, is one of the glories of this account –
At other times I shall turn to one of the conflated versions with the Paris
ballet music, such as Peter Maag’s recording for Arts –
– or, for the sake of Janet Baker, the Leppard recording (Warner
2564614972, budget price, highlights only). I wish that I could like
Kathleen Ferrier’s Orfeo as much as I ought. I can be sure, however, that
I shall frequently return to the new Erato recording of the 1774 version in
which Philippe Jaroussky shines and is very well supported all round.