ALBUM TITLE: Orfeo ed Euridice
WORKS: Orfeo ed Euridice
PERFORMER: Franco Fagioli, Malin Hartelius, Emmanuelle de Negri; Accentus; Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey
CATALOGUE NO: 479 5315
Like few other works of genius in the operatic repertory, Orfeo ed Euridice places the burden of any revival squarely on its leading performer. What Gluck sought in his ‘Reform’ operas, of which this was the first, was ‘a beautiful simplicity’ of sound and substance – exemplified in his depiction of Orpheus, a protagonist permanently in the spotlight. Only when the rare singer-actor is cast capable of tackling the role with tonal strength, verbal sensitivity and dramatic intensity do Gluck’s words make full, powerful sense.
Hence my disappointment with this latest recording of the opera’s original (1762) version. Its Orfeo, Argentinian Franco Fagioli, lacks to my ears those essential Gluckian qualities listed above. His remarkable voice can reach high above the stave like few others in his category, with special facility in ornate vocal writing, demonstrated on the set’s third CD offering samples from later Orfeo versions. Yet after a while the fruity tone quality proves unvaried, the word-utterance superficial, at times blurry. For once the great set-pieces come across as emotionally distanced, even dull.
There’s a less limited interpretative response from the rest of the company, notably the chorus, and Malin Hartelius’s Euridice, though tending to shrillness, is moving. But compared with previous 1762 sets conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, with Derek Lee Ragin, and René Jacobs, with Bernarda Fink, this one seems fatally bland. Max Loppert