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GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice

CD Button Forsythe, Baráth; Jaroussky; I Barocchisti, Radiotelevisione Svizzera Chorus, Fasolis. Italian text, no translation. Erato 9029570794

Recordings Orfeo Cover 1118

THE EDITION USED for this Orfeo ed Euridice is peculiar. Most recordings use Gluck’s 1762 Vienna original, with the title role written for alto castrato, or the composer’s expanded 1774 Paris version, in French, for haute-contre tenor, or Berlioz’s 1859 reworking, combining elements of both and casting Orpheus as a mezzo-soprano. This disc uses a more obscure source—the edition used for Orfeo’s 1774 Neapolitan debut, derived from a version that Gluck wrote for Parma in 1769 with the dance sequences trimmed, the orchestration simplified and the title role transposed up for a male soprano. The Neapolitan text introduces a pair of numbers by the dilettante composer Diego Naselli—a new version of the Orfeo–Euridice duet in the penultimate scene, and a substitute aria for Euridice.

Presumably this version was chosen to afford Philippe Jaroussky an opportunity to tackle a role that would otherwise lie too low for him. It’d be nice to say that his assumption justifies the maneuver, but this is not his finest recording. His voice here has a sour, querulous quality; the French countertenor, so brilliant in Baroque music, doesn’t summon the classical poise needed for Gluck. 

The Naselli material is conventional, unheeding of Gluck’s reforms, but the new aria for Euridice gives Amanda Forsythe an opportunity to show off her florid technique: her singing, there and elsewhere, is lovely. Emöke Baráth is a sprightly, alert Amore. Under Diego Fasolis, I Barocchisti offer transparent textures and rhythmic buoyancy. But the virtues of Fasolis’s reading undercut Orfeo’s gravitas: at seventy-seven minutes, fitting onto one disc, it registers more as a divertissement than an epic myth. Erato has given us Orfeo ed Euridice Lite; I’d prefer ingesting the work with its calorie count intact. —Fred Cohn



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