Gluck's opera Iphigénie en Aulide is a more mature piece than his, better known, Orphée et Eurydice. Written in 1774, it has in place all the elements that we will later recognise in 19th century opera: solos, ensembles and choruses, arias, arioso and recitative and a judicious injection of ballet when the action is flagging. The characters have a psychological complexity; in fact, one could criticise this opera for having too much psychology and not enough action. The theme is a familiar one, both biblically and mythologically: Agamemnon has to placate the Goddess Diana by sacrificing his daughter Iphigénie.
This 2002 La Scala production comes from the period when the company was temporarily housed at the Archimboldo in Milan. Some of the productions from this new venue were quite spectacular and this Iphigénie is no exception. I particularly liked the way the gods brood over the stage. At the beginning there are just a couple of them in the background but, by the climax, the entire action is hemmed in by a circle of towering gods.
Although this production looks good it is let down by its leading performances. Violeta Urmana is an uninspiring Iphigénia, The baritone Christopher Robertson as Agamemnon seems uncomfortable at the higher end of his range and, to my ears, the tenor Stephen Mark Brown as Achilles is painful to listen to. More successful is Daniela Barcellona as Clitemnestra, the mother of Iphigénie, this despite the fact that she is wearing the worst operatic wig that I have seen this century.
In a melodramatic story, the production does not seem to have got over how to present the drama. It does not need gimmicks or modernisation; it needs a stylised presentation but without the excess of operatic arm-waving that we get in this production. One reason why the drama does not grip is that we all know that the Goddess will descend in her chariot at the end, sort everyone out and they will live happily ever after. I suppose it's the ancient Greek equivalent of winning the lottery. In a hard life, one's only chance of happiness is the deus ex machina.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this