Gluck: Paride ed Elena

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Gluck: Paride ed Elena
WORKS: Paride ed Elena
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozená, Susan Gritton, Carolyn Sampson, Gillian Webster; Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5415
Here is a splendid revival by Paul McCreesh and an excellent cast, as seen at the Barbican in 2003, of one of Gluck’s lesser-known dramatic works. Where the composer’s previous ‘reform’ operas, Orfeo and Alceste, had been dramas of life and death, Paride ed Elena deals with a gallant subject: Paris’s wooing of Helen, here betrothed rather than married to Menelaus. Cupid pulls the strings, while Athene appears as a malign dea ex machina to utter warnings of future carnage – which the lovers blithely disregard.


McCreesh and his superb orchestra relish Gluck’s portrayal of contrasting worlds and generate plenty of tension when the emotional temperature finally begins to rise.Though Paride ed Elena is even more static than Alceste, variety comes from Gluck’s portrayal of the two contrasting national characters, Sparta and Troy. The Trojan Paris sings music in Gluck’s most ravishing, voluptuous vein, while Helen, far from being a sex-kitten, maintains a certain Spartan aloofness until her final capitulation. These national contrasts are magnified in the splendid choruses and ballet numbers.


McCreesh’s singers turn to advantage the opera’s all-soprano cast. The set’s star draw, Magdalena Kozená, brings an ideal ardour, grace and, in the later acts, intensity to a role originally written for soprano castrato. Susan Gritton, another supreme Classical stylist, gives a vivid portrait of a woman struggling to repress her gradually awakening passion. Carolyn Sampson makes a delightfully perky, self-satisfied Cupid, while Gillian Webster rages magnificently in Athene’s dire prophecy. For all its dramatic longueurs, Paride ed Elena contains much striking and sensuously beautiful music, and this new set does it proud. Richard Wigmore