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Gluck: Écho & Narcisse

Adriana González, Cyrille Dubois et al; Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet (Versailles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Écho & Narcisse
Adriana González, Cyrille Dubois et al; Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
Versailles CVS095   59:38 mins (2 discs)

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Hervé Niquet and the artists under his direction here put Écho et Narcisse, the last opera Gluck composed, on dazzling display – though given the work’s many recitatives and dances, listeners may wish to make a choose-your-own adventure playlist from among this recording’s many gorgeous tracks.

The vocal casting of the three principals –Adriana González (Écho), Cyrille Dubois (Narcisse) and Myriam Leblanc (Amour) – is ideal. González commands the lustre, vigour and rich timbres needed to turn the pallid nymph Écho into a heart-rending heroine. She blazes forth in the first-act finale, as Écho yields to grief and then death on seeing that Narcisse, because in love with himself, is lost to her. With his warm croon and manly muscle, Dubois conveys with great subtlety Narcisse’s entwined seductiveness and self-indulgence. Leblanc, radiating joy when Gluck’s opera allows Amour to re-unite Écho and Narcisse in the afterlife, relishes love’s victory in golden tones and invites us to celebrate with her. Less assured is Sahy Ratia as the Écho-Narcisse go-between Cynire; his desperation in the final scene of Act 2, though justly tragic, is also notably strained.

Instrumentation and choruses are this work’s glory. Gluck daringly uses clarinets and trombones to evoke moods and images, asking the chorus to carry the drama. Niquet is in his element here, unerringly picking out dance meters, foregrounding Gluckian touches (like the winds’ shadowing of the strings), and channelling the ferocious energy of the Concert Spirituel band and choir whose storytelling is as compelling as their musicianship.

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Berta Joncus