Notes and Editorial Reviews
"This is perhaps rather surprising territory in which to find
Juan Diego Flórez. One glance at the cover should leave
you in no doubt that he is the main attraction here.
However, in many respects this opera might have been made for
Most of us know Orfeo best with a woman in the title
role: Kathleen Ferrier, Janet Baker and Anne Sofie von Otter
are among its most famous recent exponents. However, as Jeremy
Hayes points out in his very useful booklet notes for this release,
Gluck always conceived the part with a male protagonist in mind.
His first two versions of it were composed for castrati, but
when he was invited to produce a version for Paris in 1774 he
knew that this would not do because in France the castrato voice
was something of an object of ridicule. Consequently he rearranged
it for a high tenor or, more accurately, an haute-contre.
This voice type was intended to slide effortlessly between chest
and head voice and would have taken most of the heroic roles
in French opera of the time. If the role has more often been
taken by a woman it is more testament to the fact that so few
tenors today could attempt it. Enter Flórez. If any tenor
today could tackle the role of Orphée it is surely him.
With such a singer in the title role it is bound to make you
reassess what you know of this opera. Flórez’s
renowned skills in coloratura and virtuosic singing should theoretically
give him all the necessary equipment to assay this role and
there are moments where he sounds fantastic. The bravura showpiece
which ends Act 1, and which Gluck wrote especially for this
version, sounds full and exciting in his hands and he also manages
great pathos for the famous J’ai perdu mon Eurydice.
If truth be told, though, to my ears he never sounded entirely
at home in the role, as if the conventionally staid acting style
brought out an aspect of his voice that he wasn’t entirely
happy with. Even he is punished by the high tessitura at some
moments. Don’t be misled, though: this remains a vocal
performance of great distinction and it made me appraise the
opera and this singer in a refreshing light; surely an achievement
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International