Is this a modern opera?
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a terrific recording. Martin Perlman's tempos are wonderful and the orchestral playing is subtle but always clear. Christine Goerke is just stunning. Hearing a voice with this depth of color and size perform a "baroque" role as dramatically and artfully as this, is brilliant casting. Of special note is the recit and aria at the end of act one. The singing is especially nuanced in color throughout the dynamic range of this great voice. Rodney Gilfrey is an excellent Oreste. Especially in his arias---with sustained singing---his line is wonderful with a moving intense characterization. Vinson Cole is his usual wonderful self and never disappoints. Cole's and Gilfrey's voices are not a natural match---still, their duets are well executed and convey the message of the libretto. The rest of the singers are fine but are not the calibre of the principles. The recording itself is very clear with wonderful space around the voices and orchestra. Telarc---one of my favorite labels has exceeded its usual high standard. This recording should be a contender for a number of awards. For a "baroque" work----sure sounds pretty modern to me. This is well worth the investment. Last year's Grammy winner for best chorale recording---- a Britten War Requiem conducted by Robert Schaeffer also featuring Christine Goerke was recorded several years ago. This Iphigenie shows how this artist continues to mature in her ability to communicate compellingly with her remarkable voice. I hope there is more to come."
"I defy the most insensitive person to be unmoved."
Bob Zeidler | Charlton, MA United States | 02/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dateline: Paris, 26 November, 1821. A career decision is made when an eighteen-year-old French student in Paris for the first time, to study for his degree in medicine, attends a performance revival of this Gluck masterpiece and writes home to his sister:
"Imagine, to begin with, an orchestra of eighty musicians who perform with such precision that you'd think it was a single instrument. The opera begins: you see far off a great plain (oh, the illusion is complete) and farther still a glimpse of the sea. A storm is heralded in the orchestra, dark clouds descend slowly and cover the plain; the stage is lit only by flickers of lightning piercing the clouds - but with a truthfulness and a perfection that have to be seen to be believed. There is silence for a moment, no actor on stage, the orchestra muttering, it's as if you can hear the wind sighing - you know, as you do when you're alone in winter and you hear the north wind moaning. [...] Then little by little the tension mounts and the storm bursts. Orestes and Pylades appear, in chains, brought by the barbarians of Tauris... It's more than one can stand. I defy the most insensitive person to be unmoved..."
That young pre-med student was none other than Hector Berlioz, and this Gluck masterpiece (in the opinion of many his greatest, if not his most popular, work) was to "inform" Berlioz (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Richard Wagner), in terms of directness and dramatic style, for the full length of Berlioz's career. Anyone familiar with the Berlioz skill at combining directness with dramatic impact can readily understand the effect the first hearing of this work had on this youth with unbounded imagination and a natural sense for drama. Needless to say, any plans Berlioz's father had for Hector to follow in the family tradition of medicine (or law) were demolished when he attended that 1821 performance. And music lovers are all the better off because of it.
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 - 1787), while German, was an "operatic citizen of Europe," and some of his greatest successes, at both their premieres and their revivals well into the 19th century, were in Paris, with French libretti, as is the case for "Iphiginie en Tauride." Overlapping the Baroque and early Classical periods, Gluck was to "reform" the opera style of the day by eliminating much of the florid ornamentation that was popular at the time and replacing it with a more direct declamatory style in which soloists, chorus and orchestra are fully integrated into an early form of "music drama" as would be practiced by Berlioz and Wagner the better part of a century later.
This 1779 masterpiece starts off with a bang, with a brief orchestral introduction (described far better by the young Berlioz, above, than I could ever do), and the dramatic tension is maintained throughout. Christine Goerke, as Iphigenie, could hardly be bettered; she infuses her role with emotion and drama, and can simply soar over the full ensemble when needed. And all the other soloists are equally fine, even if their roles are secondary to Iphigenie. The orchestra (here, forty rather than eighty instruments) and chorus provide splendid support, and the recording (made in the superb acoustics of Mechanics Hall, in Worcester, MA) are up to the usual Telarc standard.
One would hardly know, from the absolute freshness of the performance and from the style of writing that Gluck perfected for this work, that the work is now nearly 225 years old. Having heard this performance, I'm at a total loss to explain the fall-off in popularity of Gluck following the successes of the nineteenth-century revivals of his works which so affected Berlioz and Wagner.
If you hear no other Gluck opera, you should at least give this one a try. It's much more than a missing puzzle-piece to the story of music-drama development; it's downright thrilling!
Opera Novice Loves This Recording
desefinado | Centennial, CO USA | 03/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have a number of the better known operas which I enjoy for the music as opposed to the libretto. Although the liner notes indicate the simplicity of the music, I thought it was breathtaking. Apparently so did Berlioz according to the interesting commentary provided by Martin Pearlman. So if you are an opera novice, get this fabulous recording."