WORKS: Orphée et Eurydice
PERFORMER: Ewa Podles, Raphaëlle Farman,Marie-Noëlle de CallataÿCapella Brugensis Collegium Instrumentale Brugense/Patrick Peire
CATALOGUE NO: UCD 16720/21 DDD
The most striking feature of this disc is the casting of Ewa Podles as Orphée. A Polish contralto with a tessitura that comfortably spans three octaves, she has a voice that is resonant and rich in its low notes but rises easily to tackle coloratura – a combination which she uses to dazzling effect on ‘Amour viens rende à mon âme’, the last, show-stopping aria of Act I.
But its remarkable versatility apart, Podles’s distinctive sound is something of a curiosity – dark, slightly guttural and peculiarly tubular. Inevitably she will be compared with Kathleen Ferrier, who recorded the role in 1951, but on the evidence of this disc she has none of that singer’s warmth or charm.
The comprimarios, Raphaëlle Farman as Eurydice and Marie-Noëlle de Callataÿ as Amour, produce a clean, attractive sound, but again there is a definite coolness about their manner.
Sung in French, this recording uses Berlioz’s 1859 revision. This was the first attempt made at a compromise between Gluck’s two versions, for Vienna in 1762 and for Paris in 1774. Berlioz, with the help of Saint-Saëns, suppressed the Third Act ballets and the familiar final chorus, replacing the latter with ‘Le Dieu de Paphos’ (from Gluck’s last opera Echo et Narcisse) – an altogether weaker ending. In the quest for authenticity, the conductor, Patrick Peire, has also decided to adhere to annotations made to a score used at the 1859 version’s premiere regarding phrasing and dynamics, which may account for the eccentric speeds. That apart, the Collegium Instrumentale Brugense plays beautifully, and the sound is full and bright. Claire Wrathall