LABELS: RCA Red Seal
PERFORMER: Leonie Rysanek, Nicolai Ghiuselev, Lucia Popp, Bruno Prevedi; Vienna State Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Horst Stein
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 79595 2 ADD
This is the record of a remarkable evening (31 January 1972) at the Vienna State Opera, rather than a real account of Cherubini’s Médée. Cherubini’s masterpiece, which comes midway between Die Zauberflöte and Fidelio, is famously the most bowdlerised of operas, and as in most other 20th-century revivals the text used here incorporates recitatives by Schubert’s friend Franz Lachner and an Italian translation by Carlo Zangarini. For these discs the music is cut back still further, but Horst Stein conducts with elegance and the performance is based on a legendary production by August Everding and sets by the painter and pop singer Arik Brauer.
Most outstanding of all is the cast, which features Leonie Rysanek and Lucia Popp. Rysanek was stepping into a ‘Callas role’, and commanded everything as the abandoned and vengeful sorceress, singing with tragic grandeur and (at ‘Figli miei’) gentleness. The young Popp makes a bright and heartfelt Glauce. Bruno Prevedi uses his virile, dark-toned tenor well as the wronged hero Jason, and Nicolai Ghiuselev has authority as Creon. Edita Gruberová, now the queen of operatic Vienna, is heard as the First Maid. Callas rightly dominates the less-than-satisfactory field of Medea recordings, but Rysanek demands attention, too. John Allison