Juan Diego Flórez / Jesús López-Cobos

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

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There have been a number of recordings of the Paris version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, which features a tenor as Orphée rather than the castrato of the more familiar, original Vienna version, but this recording with Juan Diego Flórez is the first since Nicolai Gedda's 1957 effort to feature an operatic superstar. Gluck rewrote the part of the protagonist for a contre-haute, a very high tenor voice type in vogue in France at the time, but relatively rare since then, until the rise of the late 20th century interest in period performance practice. Contre-hautes generally have much lighter voices than Flórez (or Gedda), but Flórez has the technique and artistry to pull the part off with his robust, ample, bel canto instrument. He is, after all, renowned for the punishingly high role of Tonio in La fille du régiment, and Gluck's demands are less outrageous than Donizetti's. The weight of his voice may not be exactly what the composer had in mind, but the tenor's vocal ease and sensitivity to the music make a strong case for his choice to tackle the role. Having a singer with passionate bel canto delivery in the part offers fresh insights into the depths of Orphée's suffering and anguish. "L'espoir renaît dans mon âme," which the composer added especially for Paris, is a real show shopper, and Flórez makes the most of it. Each of his solos is strongly characterized and musically impassioned, and the understated sadness of "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" is a highlight. The opera is pretty much Orphée's show and is at its strongest when he is center stage, but Ainhoa Garmendia makes a fervent and sweet-voiced contribution as Eurydice, and Alessandra Marianelli is warmly lyrical as L'Amour. Jesús López-Cobos leads Coro y Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real (aka, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra) in a blood-and-thunder account of the score, with a fierce intensity that helps the modern listener understand just what a revolutionary impact the opera would have made in the late 18th century, in contrast to the stylized and rigidly mannered operas that were the norm. The sound of the live recording, made at concert performances of the opera in 2008, is clean and present, with occasional outbreaks of applause.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Orphée et Eurydice
1 2:54
2 3:38
3 0:35
4 2:01
5 1:38
6 0:22
7 1:05
8 1:22
9 1:27
10 1:19
11 1:33
12 1:27
13 1:08
14 0:25
15 2:06
16 1:59
17 1:05
18 4:53
19 3:21
20 2:42
21 1:01
22 0:43
23 0:57
24 0:53
25 1:32
26 4:09
27 7:31
28 3:06
29 3:59
30 1:51
31 1:30
32 0:50
33 2:49

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Orphée et Eurydice
1 4:18
2 3:25
3 1:44
4 0:53
5 2:25
6 3:23
7 4:45
8 1:20
9 1:31
10 3:02
11 1:07
12 1:44
13 2:21
14 4:30
blue highlight denotes track pick