Gluck wrote his opera seria Ezio in 1750 for production in Prague. (In 1762, after the formal and stylistic breakthroughs of Orfeo ed Euridice, he revised the opera for a Vienna production, but it's the original version that's recorded here.) The opera has many of the characteristics of Italian late Baroque opera; it's essentially a series of arias separated by accompanied recitatives, the formula that the composer reacted against in Orfeo. It's not Gluck at his most innovative or original, but it's a fine example of opera seria, with a number of impressive arias and some very expressive recitatives, and it can make quite an impact in a performance as fine as this one. Alan Curtis has a deep understanding of what makes early opera tick, and he conducts Il Complesso Barocco in an elegant, engaging performance that has plenty of momentum. The recording comes from a live 2008 concert performance at Théâtre de Poissy, but there is absolutely no audience noise, and the sound is immaculate and well-balanced. All the soloists are absolutely superb, and although this was a concert rather than a staged performance they convey a heady dramatic heat in their interactions. Contralto Sonia Prina exudes masculine aggressiveness in the title role and delivers Ezio's aria "Se fedele mi brama il regnant," a coloratura tour-de-force, with dazzling command. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu seems to grow in artistic stature with each new recording he makes, and he comes across with great dramatic force and effortless vocal agility. His aria "Se povero il ruscello" is one of the highlights of the album (and also of the opera; Gluck recognized this and lifted it for use in Orfeo ed Euridice). It's easy to hear the growth in countertenor Max Cencic's already formidable assurance and vocal distinctiveness. Highly recommended for fans of late Baroque or early Classical opera.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2