(Les Musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski, Mireille Delunsch, Charles Workman, Laurent Naouri, Ewa Podles, Yann Beuron, Magdalena Kozená
Though Christoph Willibald Gluck is rightly credited for innovations that look forward to Berlioz and even Wagner, his 1777 opera Armide took a decisive look backward. Embraced by the Parisian public, he resurrected a Philippe Quinault libretto that had been set to music by Jean-Baptiste Lully almost a century before. Gluck didn't realize he was committing an artistic faux pas until he discovered that one of his best scores failed to make the impression it should have. What matters now is that this story about the ill-starred love between a pagan sorceress and a Christian crusader inspired Gluck's most musically concise score, one that effectively reinterprets the many, varied musico-dramatic techniques of Lully. That element, in particular, comes through in this fine new recording thanks to the use of authentic instruments. The intelligent, vocally winning cast headed by Mireille Delunsch and Charles Workman as the lovers is somewhat wanting for star quality until the appearance of the wonderful Polish contralto Ewa Podles, who plays none other than an allegorical embodiment of hate. Thus, the recording is as enjoyable as it is important. (review by David Patrick Stearns)
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride
(Christine Goerke, Rodney Gilfry, et al.; Boston Baroque; Martin Pearlman, conductor)
Forget the marble poses and alienating antiquity that are the stereotypes dogging Gluck. The dramatic intensity of "Iphigenie en Tauride" is very much the focus in Telarc's new recording, featuring the magnificent Christine Goerke and Rodney Gilfry, and led by Martin Pearlman's incisive and vivid period-instrument approach. The second disc includes a bonus half-hour lecture on the opera.
Gluck Italian Arias ~ Dreams & Fables
In top form, beloved mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli returns with a captivating follow-up to her immensely successful collection of Vivaldi's opera music. This time, it's a program of arias in Italian from Gluck operas, aptly titled Dreams and Fables. Bartoli's high level of taste and intelligence sheds new light on Gluck's utopian goal of restoring the balance between poetry and music.