Rebelling against the increasingly formulaic operas of the time, Christoph Willibald Gluck's "reformist" opera Alceste (1767) was a successful attempt to return to a purer form of musical drama. It is highly appropriate that this 1999 production of the revised 1776 Paris version should be conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir, the same forces responsible for many fine Bach performances equally emphasizing character and text. In setting the tragic story of the profound love between Queen Alceste and her husband King Admète, Gluck provided a score of austere, rending beauty… By –Gary S. Dalkin
Thus spake Shaw, writing about Gluck towards the end of the 19th century. Shaw went on to allege that the musical culture of his time had not fully caught up with this great master and reformer of opera, and the very thoughtful and instructive essay that Gardiner contributes here suggests to me that there may still, in the third millennium, be a little catching up to do. Whatever one thinks of Gluck, either as a composer or as a musical dramatist or as an operatic rationalist and reformer, it seems to me that he was very clear-headed in one basic respect - he knew the difference between musical drama and musical tableau. Classical drama has an inherent tendency towards tableau, with its statues, white-robed women, prophets, deities and heroes…
Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) is an opera by Gluck, the third and final of his Italian reformist works, following Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste. Paride ed Elena encompasses the events between The Judgment of Paris and the flight of Paris and Helen to Troy and, like its predecessors, its libretto was written by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 3 November 1770.
"Die Sängerinnen und Sänger haben allesamt sehr intensiv an den Koloraturen gearbeitet und sind den teils horrenden Schwierigkeiten der Arien gut gewachsen … Außerdem sind die Rezitative mit hohem Konversationstempo und fantasievoller Generalbass-Improvisation umgesetzt." ~FonoForum
Opting for the French-language version of Orpheus, David Alagna was faced with the task of achieving an appropriately subtle adaptation. In a plot transposed to the present day, Eurydice dies in a car accident on the day of her wedding and Orpheus's quest for his beloved is a dream beginning and ending at the cemetery. No happy ending in this interpretation, but a new approach to characterisation: Amore, sung by a baritone, becomes a funeral parlour employee and Orpheus' guide. Orpheus, of course, loses his loved one forever by turning to look back. World famous tenor Roberto Alagna throws himself body and soul into this production. His incredible vitality, flawless timbre and diction make him a great Orpheus. His partner, young Italian soprano Serena Gamberoni, is simply stunning as Eurydice, while French baritone Marc Barrard is suitably terrifying as the guide to the Underworld. The orchestra is conducted by Giampaolo Bisanti, who masterfully brings out all Gluck's poetry, romantic melancholy and depth.
This is a full recording of the original Italian version (the “Vienna version” from 1762) of Gluck’s beloved take on the Orpheus myth, Orfeo et Euridice PLUS extra music written by Gluck for later performances of his opera. It includes virtuoso arias for Fagioli and as such represents a brilliant showcase for him and a collectible item for connoisseurs. This is Franco Fagioli’s first ever recording of a complete opera in which he sings the title role and since, the role has become one of Franco’s calling cards in recent seasons. It is known for its absolutely gorgeous music, including one of opera’s most audience-pleasing tunes, the uber-famous aria “Che farò senza Euridice”. This version of the opera (by far the most popular one) appears for the first time ever on period instruments on DG / Archiv, hence filling a major gap in our catalogue and is a substantial project featuring one of our exciting new signings in one of his finest roles.
A splendid cast as well as an avant-garde production that makes extensive use of large projection screens and includes members of the orchestra as actors onstage result in one of the most exciting opera performances in recent years.