Any production stands or falls by the performance of the lead role of Orphée. Here it is the mezzo Marianne Crebassa, a rising star. She is superb. She immediately impresses by her dignified bearing and natural air of authority. She can also convey grief by being very still. Her voice has a lovely tone, with just enough vibrato to give it warmth but not a trace of a wobble, and she has all the technique you could wish for. Her performance of Amour, viens rendre à mon âme is as dazzling as you could want, but, more importantly, her renderings of Quel nouveau ciel and J’ai perdu mon Eurydice are expressive and moving. Read more />
Of the other two soloists, Hélène Guilmette as Eurydice carries off the only real soprano role in the work well, though one cannot help feeling that Gluck was not really interested in her. However, her importunings during the attempted return are finely done. Lea Desandre, the Amour, is a former ballet dancer and combines a striking appearance with an attractive voice. She is allowed to appear in the last scene but not to sing, which is a shame.
Raphaël Pichon conducts his own chorus and orchestra, Ensemble Pygmalion. The chorus is very good. The orchestra of period instruments is vigorous. I heard some sour notes from the wind in the first Act but not subsequently, and emphatically not in the Dance of the Blessed Spirits, where the solo flautist played splendidly and indeed had the spotlight on her for part of the piece. (There was no actual dance.) She deserves a credit. The trombones sounded a bit raucous, but that may be part of the period authenticity.
The staging opens with a most attractive pastoral backdrop taken from Corot. Eurydice, dressed in a white robe, is already onstage, motionless. It is then rather a shock when Orphée and the chorus come on in modern dress. I do wish directors would get over the idea that modern dress is bold and provocative, or timeless and exciting, or whatever they think it is. It has become one of the dreariest clichés in both operas and plays, particularly those with a mythical or legendary setting. However, much of the rest is admirable, with an imaginative use of reflections. In Amour’s first appearance, she is within a large wheel, which is rocked from side to side, then once rotated completely. The underworld is represented as a bare dark stage with a central pool of light in which the chorus lie on the floor. The Furies are a proper team of three dancers, with strange and sinister movements. The attempted return is presented very simply, and is all the more powerful for it.
No complaints about the recording or picture quality. I have noted that applause is included. The booklet has some good articles, a synopsis and an interview with the director and the producer. The DVD offers subtitles in five languages. The English one is adequate but minimal, with the occasional mistake (écumant is foaming at the mouth or slavering, not slathering, which is spreading thickly).
I can confidently say that anyone who chooses this version will find much to enjoy.