Wigmore Hall Live: Blessed Spirit – A Gluck Retrospective

0 of 5 stars

Arias from – La Semiramide riconosciuta; Ezio; La clemenza di Tito; Antigono; Telemaco; Il re pastore; L’ivrogne corrigé; Orfeo ed Euridice; Alceste; Paride ed Elena; Iphigénie en Aulide; Paride ed Elena

Ailish Tynan & Sophie Bevan (sopranos) and Anna Stéphany (mezzo-soprano)

Classical Opera Company
Ian Page

Recorded 20 January 2010 at Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: October 2010
Duration: 80 minutes



This release on Wigmore Hall Live from the enterprising Classical Opera Company directed by Ian Page offers a welcome chance to enjoy arias from some of Christoph Willibard Gluck’s many neglected operas.

Though his pioneering “reform” operas – “Orpheo ed Euridice”, “Alceste” and the two “Iphigénie” works – are now widely known, Gluck’s prolific output numbers around twenty earlier operas that adhere more closely to mid-18th-century conventions. Even so, to judge by the selection presented in this recording of a Wigmore Hall concert from January, they contain much compellingly dramatic music.

Highlights include a ravishingly dreamy slow number from “Ezio”, entrancingly sung by Ailish Tynan, who is in superb voice throughout the recital. This aria is immediately followed by one of equally silken beauty and intensity from Gluck’s take on “La clemenza di Tito”, rendered with beguiling passion by Sophie Bevan.

Anna Stéphany’s rich mezzo voice may be a touch on the heavy side for this repertoire at times, but her strongly committed performances are thoroughly convincing – such as in the gripping dramatic scena from “Telemaco”, in which the sorceress Circe summons her evil spirits.It’s not all uncharted territory: there is a sizeable chunk from “Orpheo”, culminating in a well-paced account of the famous “Che farò senza Euridice?”, among other more familiar arias. All the singing is done by women (although the majority of the arias, for male roles, were originally written for castratos) leading to an inevitable lack of variety of timbre after a while. For that reason, and to help more fully appreciate the lesser-known music, the disc is probably best savoured in instalments rather than a single 80-minute overdose.

The orchestra – a small band, as might have been found in a theatre pit familiar to Gluck – provides stylish accompaniment, but the players are frustratingly recessed in a murky recording that compromises the Wigmore Hall’s characteristic immediacy and clarity. However, this doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of this highly rewarding release too much, the booklet well-annotated and including the arias’ texts and translations, and which suggests that there are many more gems to be mined from Gluck’s largely overlooked operatic back-catalogue.

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