Christoph Willibald Gluck's name is indelibly associated with his much vaunted "operatic reforms". Personally I'm someone whose operatic taste, chronologically speaking, doesn't extend beyond Handel. But seeing as this is one of Gluck's pre-reform works and it's by Curtis, I thought I would give it a go.
Ezio is based around the historical characters of Aetius
(Ezio), the 5th century general who stopped Attila's advance, and the emperor Valentinian III (Valentiniano), and actual intrigues involving these and the senator Maximus (Massimo). The chronology of events in the opera is however somewhat confused compared to the reality, and, ironically for a plot which revolves around Ezio's steadfast loyalty to Valentiniano in the face of being falsely implicated in a plot to kill the emperor, ignores the fact that Aetius in fact died by Valentinian III's own hand!
Gluck took the same Metastasio libretto as did Handel for his Ezio of 1732
. Handel had cut down the libretto significantly, and the notes to that recording suggest that the slightly confusing result led to that work's lack of popularity with opera-goers. This shorter Gluck work for me is wanting, both musically and dramatically, when set aside a Handel or a Vivaldi.
It's rescued in this recording somewhat however by the cast, including dependable and solid performers contralto Sonia Prina (Ezio), mezzo Ann Hallenberg (Fulvia, daughter of Massimo), tenor Topi Lehtipuu (Massimo) and then of course the gorgeously voiced countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic as Valentiniano.
The two discs come packaged in cardboard sleeves, in a hinged cardboard box with booklet provided notes, synopsis, libretto and translation (English, French, German).