Gluck – Alceste / Théâtre du Châtelet 2000 (3)

(Previous section here.)

But enough of the heavy stuff. This is a really beautiful performance of Gluck’s opera. All of the roles, from the herald (the same performer, Ludovic Tezier, sings the infernal god that Alceste and Admete converse with towards the end) to Evil Legolas the high priest/Hercules on upward are well worth hearing.

The big draws here, though are Paul Groves as Admete and (of course) Anne Sofie von Otter as Alceste. I’ve only ever heard Groves on DVD, but ever time I do I always have this “wait, who is this guy?” reactions. (If I recall correctly, he was a fantastic Belmonte in an otherwise mildly ill-conceived Entführung from Salzburg in the late 1990s – the one with Schäfer as Konstanze and Hartelius as Blonde and a lot of barbed wire – he makes his first entrance climbing out of a shipping box.) But anyway, he is consistently an utter pleasure to listen to here. I particularly liked “Alceste, aux noms de Dieux!” in Act III, but the whole performance is really pretty great.

As is Anne Sofie von Otter as Alceste. This is music that is written deliberately to avoid giving singers opportunities to show off. There are no fireworks; all it has to be is simple and expressive and beautiful – and of course it is. The way she ends some of the phrases in “Divinites du Styx” (there are two that end with “morte” in particular) is amazing, and it’s great drama even though the stage direction towards the end of it has Alceste standing with her arms stretched out like she just performed a difficult gymnastics vault and stuck the landing. The parts I liked the best were towards the end of the third Act, where Alceste is addressing the  gods of Hades, e.g. “Ah, divinites implacables!” The scene earlier on in Act II where Alceste hesitates and then finally confesses to Admete that she has offered her life for his, and he gets mad, is also great.

Finally, just in case anyone was wondering, the children do not get eaten.

20 thoughts on “Gluck – Alceste / Théâtre du Châtelet 2000 (3)

  1. I saw Groves sing Idomeneo in a somewhat dull production at COC three or four years ago. It was a classic case of a well sung dull production and they tend not to leave strong impressions on me.

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    1. That’s too bad. Slightly off topic: ever since I saw that Salzburg Idomeneo from a few years back, I’ve been kicking myself for not going to see the Met’s version years ago when I had the chance. Not that the Met’s production – I think it’s a Ponnelle one – would be as interesting as Salzburg’s, but found I liked the opera more than I thought I did.

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        1. I know that they revived it much later, around 2006 or so – wonder if the performance style would have changed by then. (Probably they revived it quite a few times in between too, but that’s the one I know about.)

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              1. Yeah, the DR aspect of it did occur to me 🙂 I remember reading a review of the production when I was in grad school, and distinctly remember the reviewer saying she made Ilia really gutsy and interesting – and I didn’t go and see the show because I wasn’t super into Idomeneo at the time. *forehead smack*

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                1. lol Just what is the street value of opera seria these days? I’ll meet you in the park, look for the Escalade with the gold-plated hubcabs blasting the b-line from “Fuor del Mar”.

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                2. I thought there was a dvd of the Pavarotti one, with the glorious Frederica von Stade and Ileana Cotrubas as Ilia. I think the uni lib. will have it. Otherwise I’ll be able to fix you up.

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                3. Thank you! We do have the DVD, although someone else has it out at the moment. I was interested in hearing the 2006 cast too – and stray has said she can probably hook me up 🙂

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  2. Groves was also a pretty great Ottavio in the 2000 Met Don Giovanni, or at least as far as you can be pretty great in that role. Vocally he was fine.

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