John Eliot Gardiner chose to videorecord the French version of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at the Théâtre Musical de Paris – Châtelet. Choosing the French version is consistent with Gardiner’s other Gluck recordings. The Paris cast is a bit less starry than his Lyon CD version but more than adequate. Orphée is sung by mezzo Magdalena Kozena, Eurydice by Madeline Bender and Amour by Patricia Petitbon. Gardiner uses his usual forces for chorus and orchestra; the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Choreography is by Giuseppe Frigeni, stage direction by Robert Wilson and video direction by Brian Large. The DVD is on EMI, has 16:9 video and Dolby 2.0 sound. It was recorded in 2000.
This is a very stylised production though in a different way from Robert Carsen’s version seen recently in Toronto. The singers move using, mostly, the formal movements of baroque acting and often hold poses for long periods. The set and costumes are all in a narrow range of blue greys and very simple; costumes being essentially robes of various types and the set consisting of a few flats with cut outs. It’s austere without being as bleak as Carsen. All in all it’s pleasant to watch without really having much to say. The clip below really does give an idea of what it’s like because it doesn’t change much in look or feel.
The singing and playing are to a very high standard. My one complaint would be that Kozena makes a rather feminine Orphée. I think I prefer the role sung by a counertenor of the Zazzo/Daniels type or a beefier mezzo like Stephanie Blythe. Can I just say that Madeline Bender is gorgeous as well as a very good singer.
The technical side is fine. It’s a typical DVD recording of its era. In summary, it’s an elegant but somewhat unengaging version. If one wants the French version I’d be tempted to check out the Munich version with Vesselina Kasarova as Orphée. I haven’t seen the whole thing but excerpts suggest a bit more passion though the staging is certainly less elegant.