Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gluck - Echo et Narcisse - Jacobs, Concerto Koln







Echo et Narcisse, Gluck's last opera, was a failure on its premiere in Paris in 1779, and has never been allowed to live it down. It failed again in a revised version the next year, and has had a consistently poor press and scarcely any modern revivals, let alone recordings. This pair of CDs is in fact a product of a revival at the Schwetzingen Festival; the little theatre there, at what was originally the summer residence of the famous Mannheim court, has restored eighteenth-century theatrical machinery, though to judge from what I take to be a productionThe cover page of a 1779 edition of the opera's score picture on the sleeve any attempts at authenticity must have been confined to the music.
Of course, the man who gave his noble and masterly lphigènie en Tauride in spring 1779 is unlikely to have produced a complete dud four months later. And Echo et Narcisse is certainly not that. It has very little dramatic action or interplay of characters; the plot, after Ovid, is concerned with the self-love of Narcissus, its fatal effect on his beloved Echo (who herself has other limitations), and Love's ultimate triumph in bringing her back to life and uniting the lovers when he, in horror, is about to kill himself.
The points of resemblance to Orfeo ed Euridice need no emphasis: here again Gluck focuses on the power of love, and provides music of great emotional intensity at crucial moments. But the topic with its allegorical overtones is less strongly appealing, and in the First Act particularly there is some loss of expressive concentration, which the music duly reflects. But the content of the Second and Third Acts amply compensates: the music portending Echo's death (very like the opening scene of Orfeo) is in Gluck's finest nobly mournful vein, and the ensuing scene where Echo fades, to the hieratic music of the tortured Narcissus against a choir and an orchestra (including solemn trombones) is quite remarkable—while the last act opens with a beautiful elegiac scene, continues with a finely tender air for Narcissus's friend Cynire, and then his own superb air "Beaux lieux, ternoins de mon ardeur", the work's emotional climax (after which he hears Echo's voice and prepares to kill himself). Gluck at his greatest, this, and his richest, for the music is more fully and colourfully scored than any other of his mature operas (except perhaps certain sections of Paride ed Elena).--Gramophone


ape, scans


  1. Hi Mr. Otto,

    While I was downloading Gluck - Echo et Narcisse - Jacobs, Concerto Koln you were playing some version of Auber's Fra Diavolo - the only voice I recognized was that of Nicolai Gedda. It was a fabulous treat while downloading and waiting.

    I have thrre recordings of that with Gedda; one 1968 San Francisco Opera with Mario Bernardi, two 1984 editions, one from my own LPs and another from CDs.
    A great big THANKS, I enjoed to the full!

    Bob from Georgia USA

  2. Thank you Bob,

    very nice to hear from you!


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