Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice
Gluck’s most popular opera already figures substantially in the DVD catalogue. For me, none of the past entries has proved wholly worthy – and alas, this latest, from the 2011 Perelada Festival and featuring yet another visually jazzy but empty-headed staging by the fashionable Catalan theatre troupe La Fura dels Baus, does nothing to improve the situation.
In its original version staged here, the work combines extraordinary plainness in musical materials and unprecedented potency in their dramatic purpose. It’s not, therefore, a comfortable vehicle for the torrent of tricksy video images – of statuary, castle ruins, abstract graphics – poured all over the Perelada stage. The serious matter of the opera, its principal character and Gluck’s key artistic attribute of ‘beautiful simplicity’ are drowned in restless visuals. Neither technical sophistication, with instrumentalists physically joining the action, nor curious details such as Orfeo’s appearance as an undisguised voluptuous woman in a catsuit, can conceal the lack of spirit at its core.
A powerfully focused musical direction and an intense account of the hero’s role might have redressed the balance, restoring some of the work’s poignancy and pathos. But while the band holds together, it gathers no real dramatic momentum; unstylishly slow tempos exacerbate the problem. Anita Rachvelishvili is a natural performer with a beautifully full mezzo-soprano, but as yet a lightweight Gluckian. She has good moments, as do the two Spanish sopranos as Euridice and Cupid. But overall this is a depressingly vacuous Orfeo.