WORKS: Iphigénie en Tauride
PERFORMER: Carol Vaness, Giorgio Surian, Thomas Allen, Gösta Winbergh; Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 52492 DDD
The glory of this new Iphigénie – are we on the threshold of a Gluck renaissance? – is Vaness’s shining eloquence in the title role. More than Diana Montague in the rival Gardiner set (Philips), Vaness brings the heroic stature of her near-dramatic soprano to her thrilling, moving portrayal of the priestess of pagan Tauris. She is tempestuous in the opening storm sequence, plangently nostalgic in her recollection of Agamemnon –‘Cette nuit j’ai revu le palais de mon père’ – and simply heart-breaking in her great laments, ‘O toi, qui prolongeas mes jours’ and ‘O malheureuse Iphigénie’. Thisis a jewel of a performance and all committed Gluckians will wantto hear it.
Unfortunately, she is a precious stone in a setting that is merely gold-plated. Muti, unique among the superstar maestros of our day, has bravely championed Gluck at La Scala, but this tiger in Verdi sounds here like a particularly comfortable pussy-cat, especially by the side of the lean and hungry Gardiner. The Scala orchestra plays superbly, of course, but the chorus sounds bored: more unfurious furies would be hard to imagine.
The supporting cast is mixed, too, from Winbergh’s beautifully sung Pylade, Allen’s now grey-voiced Oreste (he is superb in the Gardiner recording) and Surian’s intolerably woolly Thoas. No, Gardiner remains first choice, but Vaness’s Iphigénie at least is a five-star performance. Hugh Canning