Gluck: Alceste

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Alceste
PERFORMER: Theresa Ringholz, Justin Lavender, Jonas Degerfeldt, Miriam Treichl, Lars Martinsson; Drottningholm Theatre Orchestra & Chorus/Arnold Ostman
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660066-68
There is a healthy choice of recordings of the French version of Gluck’s Alceste but the Italian original – a radically different work – has been poorly served, with only one aria currently available on CD. The first complete recording of this version, then, makes a welcome addition to the catalogue. Recorded in the baroque opera-house of Drottningholm, there is a real sense of theatrical perspective here, with special sound effects created by Drottningholm’s collection of stage machinery adding an extra dimension. Teresa Ringholz makes a moving and convincing heroine, her graceful, pliant soprano undoubtedly apt for the role of the virtuous wife. She does, however, seem to be self-consciously restraining a more powerful voice, perhaps in an attempt not to drown the period instruments – a little more vocal intensity would not have gone amiss. Justin Lavender as her husband, Admeto, has an attractive lyric tenor, though he sounds ill at ease singing in Italian. At times, too, Arnold Östman’s direction is somewhat lack-lustre: the orchestral sound can be tentative and unfocussed and the opera’s most profound dramatic moments are understated. But, though it is far from slick, the aftertaste of this performance is of an intimate and affectionate account which captures some of the ‘beautiful simplicity’ which Gluck sought to achieve. Kate Bolton