DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

GLUCK: Iphigenie en Aulide & Iphigenie en Tauride, Blu-ray (2013)

Odd settings, but excellent singing. And it’s nice to have both operas in one set.

Published on August 25, 2013

GLUCK: Iphigenie en Aulide & Iphigenie en Tauride (complete operas), Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Veronique Gens (Iphigenie)/Salome Haller (Diana)/ Nicolas Teste (Agamennon)/ Anne Sophie von Otter (Clytemnestre)/ Frederic Antoun (Achille)/ Mireille Delunsch (Iphigenie)/ Laurent Alvaro (Thoas)/ Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble/ Chorus of the Netherlands Opera/ Marc Minkowski
Director: Pierre Audi 
Studio: Opus Arte OA BD 7115 D, [4/26/13] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 1080i Full HD color
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio, PCM 24-bit Stereo
Subtitles: German, English, French, Netherlands, Korean
Extras: Documentaries (38 minutes)
All Regions
Length: 229 minutes
Rating: ****

I never fail to get a kick out of the period instrument specialists who are so insistent that everything we hear in a Baroque opera must be as close to what the composer heard as possible, and then pair that result with productions and sets that would have left the same composer scratching his head. I guess the period instrument movement doesn’t really include opera as a whole, only the musical side of it, which seems to me somewhat artistically disingenuous. I mean, for goodness sake, since everyone, or almost everyone, in these productions are dressed in army fatigues—there is a war going on between Greece and Troy—why not emphasize this with the big, bold, and wonderful Wagnerian orchestration of Iphigenie en Aulide? Wagner understood this concept very well and was making a dramatic arrangement to correspond to it. Somehow Minkowski’s extraordinarily fleet tempos—and he is among the consistently fastest of the period instrument conductors—lack some of the gravity one would wish for in these operas.

And there is a lot of gravity to be had. The two stories are of course sequential, and also variants on the original. In Aulide she is sent by her father to be sacrificed to appease the goddess Diana, who will then grant favorable winds for the battle against Troy. It turns out well, but not for long. Diana takes pity on her and sends her to Tauride. Except this time she is the one doing the sacrificing—as appeasement to Diana. Meanwhile towards the end of Aulide Iphigenia marries her love Achille, who is destined to die in the Trojan War, and so on in true Greek fashion. Orestes her brother gets lost and appears at the end of Tauride and recognizes his sister. All ends well in Gluck even if it doesn’t in Aeschylus or Euripides.

The singing is uniformly excellent, Anne-Sophie von Otter surely a standout (and appreciated by the audience) though Veronique Gens gives no quarter to anyone. Frederic Antoun and Jean-Francois Lapointe cover the roles of Achille and Orestes beautifully, especially the latter, though I was not impressed with the older version of Iphigenia done by Mireille Delunsch in Tauride, who seems to struggle with intonation in many instances.

The sets are unusual, almost like football bleachers on each side of a stage that centers the action and puts the orchestra on the same level behind them. It does serve to help concentrate on the action by these scaled down scenic forces, but gets a little bit bland by the time we get to the second opera. Why not just set it in Greece? That would be period-like, wouldn’t it?

The filming is excellent though the sound in DTS is variable—the action center stage is too recessed aurally, and is sometimes hard to hear. The PCM adds great presence but sacrifices spatial qualities. But two-in-one is good to have, and these are excellent performances. [Then try the PCM stereo with pseudo-surround...Ed.]

—Steven Ritter




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