Gluck: Orpheé et Eurydice

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COMPOSERS: Gluck
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Orpheé et Eurydice
PERFORMER: Juan Diego Flórez, Ainhoa Garmendia, Alessandra Marianelli; Coro y Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real/Jesús López-Cobos
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2197

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 Made live at the Teatro Real, Madrid, this recording of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice would be unlikely to merit attention were it not for Juan Diego Flórez. Substantially revised and expanded for the haute-contre (high tenor) voice in 1774, the role of Orpheus requires muscle, mellifluousness and a deep engagement with both style and text.

Though the haute-contre and tenore di grazie voices are broadly similar in range, the first looks back to Rameau, Lully, even the airs de cour, while the second anticipates looks forward to Donizetti in its artistry-for-artistry’s-sake embellishments.

Here Flórez’s rapid vibrato and sweetness give the impression of gliding brightly above the music. His is an elegant, aloof Orpheus, who only engages fully in the roulades of ‘L’espoir renaît dans mon âme’, met with wild applause from an otherwise tepid audience. 

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Who can blame them? Jesús López-Cobos’s tempos prove inexplicably taxing for the chorus. Though Alessandra Marianelli’s Amour is sparkling, Ainhoa Garmendia’s Eurydice is cloudy, as though inhibited by the French vowels. Orchestrally, too, this is an unflattering portrait. It seems Marc Minkowski’s Archiv recording still has no serious rival. Anna Picard