Revered for the serious works that brought a new dramatic focus to later 18th-century opera, Gluck is still little-known as composer of a string of (mainly pre-Orfeo) French-language opéras-comiques. The one-act Le Cadi dupé (1761) was his seventh essay in this Parisian form, popular in origin and mixing speech and song, that had become the vogue in Vienna (where at the time Gluck was composing for Maria Theresa’s court). Musically, it’s one of his best.
Female ugliness as a plot pivot may make the comedy distasteful to late-20th-century sensibilities, but, in spite of this, the pithy short numbers, all brightly theatrical and all musically striking with their touches of ‘Viennese Turkish’, add up to an attractive light entertainment.
This 1974 Electrola recording of a well-known German Cadi dupé translation was first issued on EMI, and reaches CD courtesy of CPO. Not in period style (which would probably be de rigueur today) and with sound quality that, though clear and well-balanced, slightly shows its age, it’s nevertheless most enjoyable.
Under the veteran Suitner, performance tone stays fresh and light. Spoken sections are crisp – in the title role the excellent Walter Berry especially shines – and, although as his neglected wife Rothenberger sounds a mite frayed, the rest of the sextet sing with charm and definite character. No libretto, unfortunately; otherwise, well worth investigating.