I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in bel canto roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought.
Iphigénie en Tauride (Iphigeneia in Tauris) is a tragédie lyrique in four acts by Niccolò Piccinni, which was first performed at the Académie royale de musique (the Paris Opéra) on January 23, 1781. The opera’s libretto, by Alphonse du Congé Dubreuil, is based on a play of the same name by Claude Guimond de la Touche, although the ultimate source was the tragedy Iphigeneia in Tauris by Euripides. This opera marked the climax of the quarrel between the supporters of Piccinni and those of Christoph Willibald Gluck...
Gluck‘s wonderful but neglected 1774 opera Iphigénie en Tauride, inspired by the Greek legend, is treated with forceful and convincing simplicity in Klaus Guth‘s revolutionary production staged at the Zurich Opera House. The psychological drama in a tense atmosphere of fears and traumas is underlined by Guth‘s use of huge masks and enclosed spaces. Conductor William Christie and his typically transparent but never cold orchestral sound perfectly match the descriptive elements in Gluck’s score, while the Armenian mezzosoprano Juliette Galstian as a fabulously good Iphigénie, the leading American opera baritone Rodney Gilfry as Oreste and the deceased South African tenor Deon van der Walt as Pylade head a superb cast.
This is the masterwork, Gluck's last important opera, which convinced the teenage medical student Berlioz, when he first heard it in 1821, that he had to be a composer. He worshipped Gluck and took his side in the phoney "Gluck vs.Piccini War". He set himself the task of sitting in the Conservatoire library to copy out the entire score in order to absorb its lessons. Its directness and drama influenced his artistic style his whole life through, as evinced by key points in "Les Troyens".
Following the success of 1999's thrilling Armide, Marc Minkowski and his excellent cast fully convey the power and drama of Gluck's masterpiece. They pull you into the story (based on a play by Euripides) through the emotional truth of their interpretation. The opening quiet strings create an air of mystery dispelled by a ferocious storm magnificently conveyed by these early-music specialists. Within a few phrases of Iphigénie's opening lament, Delunsch creates a believable, sympathetic character.
Two late and baleful tragedies by Euripides focus on the ill-starred daughter of the Greek King, Agamemnon. Will he sacrifice Iphigenia in order to secure fair winds for his voyage to Troy? In Aulis, the drama rages until she is spared. Having escaped to Tauris, Iphigenia finds herself compelled to kill her own brother before, once more, the fickle gods intervene.
Two late and baleful tragedies by Euripides focus on the ill-starred daughter of the Greek King, Agamemnon. Will he sacrifice Iphigenia in order to secure fair winds for his voyage to Troy? In Aulis, the drama rages until she is spared. Having escaped to Tauris, Iphigenia finds herself compelled to kill her own brother before, once more, the fickle gods intervene. Gluck's operatic settings are very rarely staged together, but Pierre Audi's production makes a darkly compelling case for their dramatic unity. All the lead performers here are experienced exponents of Gluck, and together they present a powerfully idiomatic experience.