10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Bravissimo, Sir John!,
This review is from: Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride (Audio CD)
This was the first opera I ever saw at Covent Garden in the 1970s, when it was likewise conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. He has become one of the finest interpreters of Gluck's operas, which I would judge are not easy to perform. The music looks deceptively simple in the printed score and needs great attention and faithfulness to what is there if it is not to sound simply dull. Eliot Gardiner's recording of the tricky 'Alceste' brings that work tinglingly to life, where Serge Baudo in an older recording was slow and sluggish to the point of being downright soporific (a great pity since he has the incomparable Jessye Norman who would otherwise make an ideal Alceste). Here too Eliot Gardiner avoids that all too common danger of embalming the work, treating it as a venerable monumental classic that must above all be respected, rather than bringing it to dramatic life, and he does so by scrupulous truthfulness to the letter of the score. Perhaps because he is also an organic farmer he realises that Gluck's way of reforming the conventional and artificial modes of 18th century opera was by seeking to be true to nature.
He is greatly helped by the excellent orchestra of the Lyons Opera and a fine cast of singers: Thomas Allen as the tormented Orestes, John Aler sympathetic in support as the faithful friend, Rene Massis the gloomily anguished barbarian king. Gluck's soprano roles seem to attract mezzo-sopranos like Diana Montague who does make a noble Iphigenia (she has sung the part on stage), but just lacks the last ounce of dramatic impact: she has to negotiate tricky high-lying phrases rather carefully. This was one of Callas' great roles and her no-holding-back style is what is needed. Still, that is only a minor quibble and does not really detract from what is a most magnificent rendering of this wonderful opera.