Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Gluck
LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: Orphée et Eurydice
PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna, Serena Gamberoni, Marc Barrard; Bologna Commnity Theatre Orchestra & Choir/Giampaolo Bisanti; dir. David Alagna (Bologna, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: BAC052 (NTSC system; Dolby 5.1; 16:9 picture format) 1

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Derided at its 2008 premiere, David Alagna’s Teatro Comunale di Bologna production of Orphée et Eurydice remains problematic on DVD. The hyperactively edited, split-screen bonus feature interview is revealing: ‘A work in search of itself’ is how Alagna describes Gluck’s opera. Substantially transposed, reordered and rescored from the 1774 version, with a baritone Amor and a tenor Orphée (the director’s big brother, Roberto), this ‘cultural excursus’ on grief and guilt is the work of a man who wants desperately to be seen as a sophisticate.

The Dance of the Furies arrives early, soundtrack to a wedding party prologue. Giddy with champagne, Serena Gamberoni’s flirty Eurydice dances headlong into Marc Barrard’s sinister leather-clad Amor, here an undertaker and ‘the Virgil to Orphée’s Dante’. The first of several fade-cuts (Alagna clearly aspires to cinema) takes us to the scene of a car crash, where paramedics pull Eurydice’s body from the wreckage. Thence to the graveyard, whence all that follows is Orphée’s dream.

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If you can swallow the concept, the acting is detailed and humane, the Underworld a powdery fantasy of suspended animation. Though coarse at the top, Roberto Alagna’s verismo Orphée is a perceptive study of sudden bereavement. Given ‘free will’, which translates as making love to the undertaker on the bonnet of his hearse, Gamberoni pouts and flounces with confidence. Despite his Marilyn Manson-as-Victorian mute costume, Barrard has presence. Giampaolo Bisanti’s conducting is fleet and finely accented, although – the  veritable nail in this product’s coffin – the sound quality is surprisingly poor. Anna Picard