Gluck: Ezio

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arco Diva
PERFORMER: Jana Levicová, Eva Müllerová, Yukiko Srejmová Kinjo, Michaela Srumová, Martin Srejma et al; Prague Symphony Chamber Orchestra/Jiπí Petrdlík
CATALOGUE NO: Arco Diva UP 0141 – 2 232

Gluck twice set Metastasio’s tale of love under pressure from state and family. The 1763 Vienna version is already in the catalogue. Now two versions of the 1750 Prague edition have been released, both live but significantly different in style and content. Where Alan Curtis’s period instruments recording (reviewed by George Hall this issue) weighs in at two and a half hours, this performance from the Prague Symphony Chamber Orchestra under Jiπí Petrdlík is a slender hour and 40 minutes. Interestingly, not one aria has been cut. In fact, Petrdlík includes a chirruping titbit – Onoria’s Act I ‘Quanto mai felici siete’ – that Curtis omits, instead cutting 50 minutes of recitative.
Few will lament the loss. Ezio is pre-Orfeo, pre-Reform, opera seria Gluck: a sequence of elegant da capo arias describing discrete emotional states, linked by an unconscionable acreage of recitative. Some of the characterisation is vivid – the butch provocation of Massimo’s ‘Va! dal furor portata’, the heroic scramble of Ezio’s ‘Se fedele mi brama’, the plangency of Fulvia’s ‘Fin che un Zeffiro soave’ – but you can sense the frustration of a soon to be radical composer straining at the confines of a then 40-year-old form. Though muddled by the lush acoustic of Prague’s St Simon and Juda Church, Petrdlík’s performance features some promising voices – Michaela Srumová (Valentiniano) and Jana Levicová (Ezio) – with an attractive Slavic gleam. The orchestral playing is at best spirited, at worst untidy. Anna Picard