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Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice
23 Jun 2006

GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice

All the excitement and activity in the classical recording company world now seems to be in the budget area.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

Hamari, Kincses, Zempleni, Orchester & Chor der ungarischen Staatsoper, Lukacs (cond.)

Capriccio 51 192 [2CDs]

$9.99  Click to buy

More and more the big companies mine through their vaults for re-releases in lines called "Great Conductors in Greater Halls with the Greatest Repertory" or "Adagios to take Valium by." Most of the best opera sets now appear in slim cases, with librettos unprovided (other than online).  And with every re-release, the price gets lower.

Even more modest companies, such as Capriccio, can get in on the act. The company has started a line called "editionopera," and if this Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice represents the quality throughout the line, Capriccio should do very well. At super-budget price, the packaging and graphic design don't promise much, but the performance is what matters, and quite a good one it is.

Recorded in 1978 in Budapest, the opera features Julia Hamari as Orfeo. She has a most warm timbre that neither comes across as uncomfortably masculine nor inappropriately feminine. Sounding most lovely in their relatively brief appearances are Veronika Kincses as Euridice and Maria Zempleni as Amore. The chorus of the Hungarian State Opera produces a full, robust sound.

The conductor, Ervin Lukacs, does have the traditional harpsichord for accompaniment. Otherwise, this performance will displease "historically informed practice" adherents. Most other listeners will revel in the lushness of the strings and the fullness of the orchestral textures. Lukacs does adopt some speedy tempos at times, and some may feel that the opera's favorite number, "Che faro senza Euridice" could have been lingered over a bit more. In such matters of taste, arguing avails nothing, but the overall spirit of the recording rewards the open-minded listener with its passion and professionalism.

The slim booklet has a detailed track listing, a brief note about the opera and an even briefer story summary (the opera hardly requires a lengthy one). The notes and summary come in German, English, and Italian. Capriccio must not feel as if the French market for this recording necessitates their inclusion.

This opera can be acquired in different editions, from the recent Minkowski set with Richard Croft in the tenor lead, to a vintage Monteux recording featuring Rïse Stevens, and even one with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau mourning the loss of his Euridice. Now, for a very agreeable price, collectors can add this worthy Capriccio set. It's is a bargain in all senses of the word.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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