WORKS: Orphée et Eurydice
PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore, Dawn Upshaw, Alison Hagley; San Francisco Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Donald Runnicles
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98418-2 DDD
In Gluck’s two workings of this opera, the role of Orpheus was written first for an alto castrato – the 1762 Italian version premiered in Vienna – and second for a tenor – the 1774 French version premiered at the Paris Opéra. This Berlioz edition was commissioned by the Théâtre Lyrique in 1859 and brought the role of Orpheus into the mezzo range for the great star of the era, Pauline Viardot.
Larmore sings most of the wonderful coloratura cadenzas which Viardot wrote into her score (now in the possession of Marilyn Horne). Larmore’s luxuriant, velvety sound and admirable technical agility are dextrously aligned and displayed in both the Act I ‘Amour, viens rendre à mon âme’ and the Act III ‘J’ai perdu mon Eurydice’. Runnicles provides a strong lead in ensuring that the Romantic flair and Classical balance coexist and enhance the intensity of the drama. The orchestral ensemble is occasionally ragged, but this does not undermine the total performance, as Runnicles’s sense of pace and texture is always impeccably judged. The chorus is expressive and characterful. Upshaw delivers a vulnerable, poignant Eurydice with her unique, vibrant soprano, and Hagley gives a crisp, bright Amour.
This is a fine and enjoyable recording which just misses the magical mark by a fraction. Elise McDougall