Gluck: Iphigénie en Aulide & Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigenia was a born victim. Daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, she drifts in and out of Greek legend, now slaughtered at the command of her father, now saved by the goddess Diana, now an exiled priestess doomed to kill and kill again. Recorded in Amsterdam in 2011, Pierre Audi’s La Monnaie and De Nederlandse Opera co-production explores Gluck’s two Iphigenia operas side by side, presenting Iphigénie en Aulide (1774) as a prologue to Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). Anyone unmoved by Mozart’s Idomeneo (1781), should listen to this doomy diptych. Hamstrung by his predilection for beauty, Mozart never quite matched Gluck’s rigour, his severity, his sheer inconsolability. Conducted by Marc Minkowski and played by Les Musiciens du Louvre, in this performance every cross-hatched, baleful figure is crisp and clear.
Grief changes people horribly. Despite the best and worst efforts of soprano Salomé Haller’s capricious Diana and baritone Laurent Alvaro’s implacable Arcas/Thoas in Iphigénie en Aulide, Véronique Gens’s submissive, poised Iphigénie of that opera becomes Mireille Delunsch’s red-eyed, hysterical Iphigénie in Tauride. In the first opera, she is a political pawn. In the second, an unwilling executioner in a heartless theocracy. Both sopranos sing magnificently despite Audi’s over-stylised movement direction. Michael Simon’s set-designs pitch two vertiginous staircases over a covered orchestra pit, with a sacrifical altar in its centre. Costumes reference Gluck’s era and our own. Mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter’s touching Clytemnestra, tenor Frédéric Antoun’s boyish Achille (on Aulis), and baritone Jean-François Lapointe’s Oreste and the plangent semi-chorus of Priestesses (on Tauris) provide stylish vocal support. The camera-work, including overhead shots, is sometimes intrusive.