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Gluck told the story of Orpheus (really a meditation on the power of music) with a simple directness that has survived more than two centuries of changing musical fashions. In this 1991 modernization and wild elaboration, Orpheus is visually a guitar-toting, leather-clad rocker. But Gluck's music exerts its character and its special charm, no matter whether one accepts the visual concepts of director Harry Kupfer or dismisses them as self-indulgent.
German countertenor Jochen Kowalski has exactly the right kind of voice, and he conveys powerfully the varied emotions in this story of a titanic struggle between love and death. The supporting cast is small but well-chosen, with a boy soprano in the role of Amor and a Euridice, Gillian Webster, who is as good at acting as she is at singing. Hartmut Haenchen's conducting catches the spirit of Gluck's music. --Joe McLellanFrom the Back Cover:
Harry Kupfer's version of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, originally conceived for the Berlin Komische Oper and now in the repertory of The Royal Opera, won the Olivier Award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Opera. According to legend, Orpheus' magical power as a musician enabled him to regain his wife from the dead on the condition that he did not look at her on the journey back from Hades--a condition it proved impossible not to fulfill. In Harry Kupfer's updated version, Orfeo, in leather jacket, trainers, and jeans, sees his Euridice die in a street accident. Succumbing to depression, he languishes in Hades--a psychiatric hospital--before taking his electric guitar to charm the beasts in an inner-city concrete jungle. Hans Schavernoch has designed an ingenious set with protected imagery on revolving screens and mirrors. The German male alto Jochen Kowalski gives a virtuoso performance as the tormented Orfeo, with the young British soprano Gillian Webster as Euridice. The opera is conducted by Hartmut Haenchen. Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 84 minutes. Cast:
Jochen Kowalski: Orfeo
Gillian Webster: Euridice
Jeremy Budd: L'Amore
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