Gluck composed “Ezio” only one year after the success of “Orfeo”. It was premiered in 1763 at the Burgtheatre in Vienna. Although not as successful as “Orfeo” it contains many fine moments and this recording, in which Michael Hofstetter conducts a first rate cast, should introduce more opera listeners to this fine work. “….the representation of his (Gluck’s) early and middle years is patchy. All the more fitting then, to be able to welcome a thoroughly satisfactory issue of Ezio….. It is greatly to the credit of countertenor Franco Fagioli, who sings the part (Ezio, sung by the famous castrato Guadagni in the première) in this recording, that there is no sense of anticlimax: he produces firm, expressive singing, with delicacy where appropriate.” (International Record Review)
Alan Curtis, described by the New York Times' as "one of the great scholar-musicians of recent times", conducts a brilliant cast including Sonia Prina, Ann Hallenberg, Max-Emanuel Cencic and Topi Lehtipuu in the original, 1750 version of Gluck's Ezio, described by Curtis as "from a dramatic point of view, perhaps the finest of Gluck's pre-Orfeo operas".
Written to a libretto by the prolific and influential Metastasio, Ezio exemplifies the formal opera seria that Gluck sought to leave behind with his so-called reform operas such as Orfeo and Alceste; but after Orfeo's epoch-making premiere in Vienna in 1762 he revised Ezio for performance at the city's Burgtheater in 1763…
With “Ezio”, composed one year after his pioneering “Orfeo”, Gluck composed an opera seria that cannot be classified to the Gluck reform operas. Based on a libretto by Metastasio, “Ezio” premiered on December 26, 1763 at the Vienna Burgtheater. Although the opera partakes of traditional opera seria methods, an approach that reflects a new aesthetic is also perceptible, such as the tightening of the da capo arias and reduction of the overture to a one-movement sinfonia. In 2007, the orchestra of the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele took a further step in the direction of stylistic authenticity and musical refinement, making it one of Europe’s top ensembles in the area of 18th century music.
Gluck wrote his opera seria Ezio in 1750 for production in Prague. (In 1762, after the formal and stylistic breakthroughs of Orfeo ed Euridice, he revised the opera for a Vienna production, but it's the original version that's recorded here.) The opera has many of the characteristics of Italian late Baroque opera; it's essentially a series of arias separated by accompanied recitatives, the formula that the composer reacted against in Orfeo. It's not Gluck at his most innovative or original, but it's a fine example of opera seria, with a number of impressive arias and some very expressive recitatives, and it can make quite an impact in a performance as fine as this one.
Another opportunity to hear Gluck before his “reform opera” days. This dramma per musica is set in the late 5th century just before the fall of the Roman empire dates from 1750 (and was successful enough for Gluck to have revised it for a 1763 revival). It shows the composer as a consummate master of opera seria with its elaborate structure of da capo arias and recitatives in a style moving from late baroque to galant.
For more than two decades, Cecilia Bartoli has undeniably been one of the leading artists in the field of classical music. All over the world, her new operatic roles, her concert programs and recording projects – in exclusivity with Decca – are expected with great eagerness and curiosity. The exceptional amount of 8 million CDs sold, more than 100 weeks ranking in the international pop charts, numerous Golden Discs, four Grammys® (USA), nine Echos and a Bambi (Germany), two Classical Brit Awards (UK), the Victoire de la musique (France) and many other prestigious awards reflect the immense success of for example Opera proibita and her solo albums dedicated to Vivaldi, Gluck and Salieri and that she is firmly established as today’s “best-selling classical artist”.
It may seem surprising that this is the first complete recording of Gluck's one-act opera (or, as he called it, serenata teatrale) La corona (The Crown) after more than 240 years. The work was never performed during Gluck's lifetime; written for the name day of Francis I, husband of Habsburg empress Maria Theresa, it was rendered irrelevant by the dedicatee's death in 1765. The listener will discover soon enough why no one has thought to revive the work since then.
This is the masterwork, Gluck's last important opera, which convinced the teenage medical student Berlioz, when he first heard it in 1821, that he had to be a composer. He worshipped Gluck and took his side in the phoney "Gluck vs.Piccini War". He set himself the task of sitting in the Conservatoire library to copy out the entire score in order to absorb its lessons. Its directness and drama influenced his artistic style his whole life through, as evinced by key points in "Les Troyens".
Following the success of 1999's thrilling Armide, Marc Minkowski and his excellent cast fully convey the power and drama of Gluck's masterpiece. They pull you into the story (based on a play by Euripides) through the emotional truth of their interpretation. The opening quiet strings create an air of mystery dispelled by a ferocious storm magnificently conveyed by these early-music specialists. Within a few phrases of Iphigénie's opening lament, Delunsch creates a believable, sympathetic character.