Mozart felt about Gluck the way most people feel about Mozart: transported out of himself with joy by his music. ORPHEUS ED EURIDICE is Gluck's most famous opera and it is far and away the most influential. Subsequent variations on the plot include Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE, Beethoven's FIDELIO, and Wagner's DAS RHEINGOLD, all three centering on underground rescue missions which require the protagonist to control or conceal his emotions in the face of strong temptation. Echos from the climactic duet can be heard in all Mozart's mature operas; also in Fidelio and in Haydn's CREATION. Really if you're beginning a classical-vocal education this piece is one of the best places to start. (It's OK to skip some of the ballet sections if you get bored, although the Dance of the Furies is lively and intimidating.)
Orpheus was the signature role of the British mezzo-soprano superstar Dame Janet Baker. It's a very difficult role to play because you must be a frenzied adolescent like Cherubino or Octavian, but you must also have dignity and depth like Leonore. Baker brings it so much to life it's easy to forget she's an actress even though she's playing a man! She's well-supported by delicate-sounding Elizabeth Gale as Euridice and sweet Elisabeth Speiser as the Infant Love-Goddess. The choruses are formidable; the Chorus of Furies carries almost enough testosterone to make up for there being no principal male roles.
If there's a flaw, it's that there's a lot of blue in the lighting and sets. I started to think I was under water rather than under ground.
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