Orfeo ed Euridice – Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

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Gluck’s Orfeo, once again. After the French version at La Scala in Milan (same production as in London), with a tenor (or rather THE tenor, Juan Diego Flórez) in the title role, I went to see this Italian version, with one of my favourite countertenors: Philippe Jaroussky.

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The feeling is very different. Florez’ Orfeo is heroic, even in his desperation, and the added tenor aria L’espoir renaît dans mon âme, with its fierce coloratura helps spice up the character. A countertenor Orfeo has obviously a very different impact; and Jaroussky, with his naturally larmoyante voice, turned out to be a more melancholic, sad hero, his desperation resigned and soft. In all this, his first aria Chiamo il mio ben così was for me more moving than in Flórez’ version, it was truly a magnificent interpretation. Nevertheless, Jaroussky’s voice didn’t seem in perfect shape: the top was, as usual, magnificent, with easy, round high notes, but the middle voice seemed opaque and not really “there”. In my memory his middle voice was stronger and more resonant, maybe he had a bad night. I don’t want to sound too negative, his performance was great.

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The production, by Robert Carsen, was non- existent. There was nothing on stage (literally NOTHING), black sand, or gravel, on the floor, the men in jacket and tie, the women in all black. It looked like a concert, and that’s fine for me. Rather than a spaceship, give me a concert performance any day (my bar is very low these days).

The singers did make an effort and the acting was pretty good though. Especially Patricia Petibon was very convincing as Euridice, her desperation at her husband not looking at her felt real, and made the story almost believable. Her singing was amazing, I was blown away. I had already heard her in the Carmelites, in this very same theatre, and here she seemed even more at ease. I need to hear her in more Baroque music.

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Amore was Hungarian soprano Emőke Baráth, a clear, bright, high voice, very suited to the style, extremely enjoyable.

In the pit we had Diego Fasolis, with his orchestra I Barocchisti! They were wonderful. They tuned at 440hz, I have no idea why. I couldn’t see the musicians, but I mean, they are called “I Barocchisti”, they must have Baroque instruments, right? The sound from the pit was glorious: Fasolis conducted with his usual vigour and enthusiasm, driving the show relentlessly. His interpretation was nuanced and with great attention to dynamics, I loved it.

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The chorus was good! It was the Chœur de Radio France and they were amazing together, great tempi and dynamics. And they also gave us a great acting performance, for the little that the production required.  Of course, I had in my ears the Monteverdi Choir (from London) and it’s a hard comparison, but this choir was very enjoyable.

The last joy: the ballets were cut!! The music was performed only for the first ballet (Le furie) which is, in fact, the most beautiful one, and the other were completely removed. I was very relieved, sitting through those incomprehensible ballets in the performance in London and Milan was excruciatingly boring.

 

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