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Gluck, Christophe Willibald: Iphigénie en Tauride CD DG 2001

Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride (CD)


Click here for a transcript of BBC Radio 3 “CD Review: Building a library” where this recording is first choice

Iphigénie en Tauride
Composer Christophe Willibald Gluck
Conductor Marc Minkowski
Iphigénie: Mireille Delunsch
Oreste: Simon Keenlyside
Pylade: Yann Beuron
Thoas: Laurent Naouri
Diana: Alexia Cousin
First Priestess: Claire Delgado-Boge
Second Priestess: Nicky Kennedy
Minister of the Sanctuary: Laurent Alvaro
Greek woman: Michelle Norman-Webb
Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre
Musiciens du Louvre
Label Deutsche Grammophon
Code 4711332
Released May 21, 2001
Recorded A live recording. Click here for details of the performance Iphigénie en Tauride, Paris, 1999
Number of discs 2
Award_diaspason_dor 2001: Diapason d’or
2002: Echo Award
2002: Record Academy Prize, Tokyo

What the critics say

Reviewed for Gramophone July 2001

“Simon Keenlyside makes an impressive Orestes, conveying the character’s tortured state of mind through his intensity of tone and line. He is master, too, of French declamatory singing, as his air at the beginning of Act 2 shows.”

“Gluck’s last great opera seria demands a performance of genuine epic scale, and certainly receives it here. There is a gripping sense of theatre in the way Marc Minkowski invokes the storm of the opening prelude, obtaining real fervour from the period instruments of Les Musiciens de Louvre. He never allows the dramatic temperature to drop. Mireille Delunsch is superb in the title role; she is a priestess of unswerving authority, and a tragic heroine of real stature, while Simon Keenlyside as her brother Oreste combines heroic timbre with a convincing lyricism. The supporting roles are equally well taken (though Lauren Naaouri’s tone as Thoas, King of Tauris, is slightly unfocused); all round it’s a superb achievement.”

Reviewed for Opera News by Paul Thomason, October 2001

“Though Oreste has only one line in Act I, Keenlyside seems to create a three-dimensional character instantly with just those nine words. His artistry goes far beyond the intrinsically beautiful voice, or the fact that the voice is the perfect weight and color for the role — elegant without ever being effete, aristocratic yet brimming with masculinity. Keenlyside uses all that to bring Oreste to life, to make listeners truly feel the character’s emotions. Keenlyside simply is Oreste; the music is not a screen between listeners and performer, it is a bridge that unites them in the same intimate moment.”

T. Hashimoto in the San Francisco Examiner, 22 October 2002

“Minkowski and his band produce a grandly tragic ‘Iphigenie,’ with his favorite soprano, Mireille Delunsch, in the title role. She’s first-rate, with a reposeful, feminine sound and enough emotional punch to clarify the girl’s emotional state. (Christine Goerke is even better on that Boston set but nothing else is.) Delunsch is perfectly partnered by baritone Simon Keenlyside (Oreste) and tenor Yann Beuron (Pylade).”

John Story. Issue 26:6 (July/Aug 2003) of Fanfare Magazine

“… If Minkowski is the hero of these recordings, then the heroine is unquestionably Mireille Delunsch. Possessed of a lyric voice somewhat like that of the great American soprano Arlene Augér, Delunsch similarly uses her voice’s vast range of tone color to fill every nook and cranny of the characters she portrays. She is always singing off the words; in quiet moments her voice is tender and bell-like. In extremis, like Augér, she sings at the very end of her powers before tottering over into unmusical screeching or overemphatic parlando, the tone full or hollow, refined or raw as the situation demands, always musically and dramatically alive in the moment. The emotional range is enormous without ever slipping into verismo with a harpsichord. In the one role she shares with Callas, Iphigénie, I would in fact rate her performance above that of the great Greek simply because the performance has more of the proper scale and the voice is in infinitely better shape than Callas’s. The rest of Minkowski’s singers, Charles Workman, Laurent Naouri, and Ewa Podles in Armide, Simon Keenlyside, Yann Beuron, Laurent Naouri again, and Alexia Cousin in Iphigénie give comparable performances in recordings that, to my mind, for the first time fully realize the stature of the greatest French operas of the generation after Rameau.”

Extract from BBC Magazine

Performance: 5 stars out of five
Sound: 5 stars out of five

John Eliot Gardiner’s 1985 Philips recording has long held pride of place, beating off even the competition of last year’s fine Telarc version from Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque. But Minkowski’s has even greater incisiveness, immediacy and bravura. Sometimes his effects are startling: the terrifying thwacks of bows on strings in Thoas’s ‘De noirs pressentiments’, the bloodthirsty choruses of Scythians and Turkish-style dances that follow, the extra notch of intensity he brings to every number (in spite of his lower pitch). But he also brings exquisite sensitivity to bear in situations of emotional tenderness, and it is here that his Iphigénie, Mireille Delunsch, has the edge over Gardiner’s Diana Montague. Delunsch’s plaintive inflections in ‘O toi qui prolongeas mes jours’ (as Iphigénie pleads for her life to be taken away) melt the heart, while her virtuoso ‘Je t’implore’ in Act IV is thrilling, especially with Minkowski’s marvellously dynamic accompaniment – a real showstopper. Simon Keenlyside is also excellent as Oreste, while Yann Beuron and Laurent Naouri give strong support as Pylade and Thoas.

Richard Wigmore, The Telegraph (The Classic Collection), 15 November 2008

Premiered in Paris in 1779, Iphigénie en Tauride is Gluck’s supreme masterpiece, the culmination of his efforts to purge opera of superfluous display. The action moves forward remorselessly. Iphigénie and her tormented brother Oreste inspired some of Gluck’s most powerful music.

At mid-price, the choice lies between John Eliot Gardiner’s noble, Apollonian performance (Philips 416 148) and the high-octane reading from Marc Minkowski and a largely French cast. Some may blanch at Minkowski’s hyperactive tempos. But from the opening storm, he projects a desperate drama. The Scythian choruses and dances can never have sounded so bloodcurdling, or the churning violas in Oreste’s “Le Calme rentre dans mon cceur” so ominous.

In the crucial title role, Mireille Delunsch has a touchingly plangent quality. For expressive French declamation she is matched by Simon Keenlyside’s distraught, impassioned Oreste. Yann Beuron, with one of the opera’s plum arias, is virile and graceful as Oreste’s companion Pylades, while Laurent Naouri rages without coarseness as the Scythian king, Thoas. If you still think of Gluck as chilly and austere, the intensity of this performance could come as a revelation.

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