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Paride ed Elena

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 14, 2005
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$24.91
$14.49 $6.86
$24.91 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Product Details

  • Performer: Magdalena Kozena, Susan Gritton
  • Conductor: Paul McCreesh
  • Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • Audio CD (June 14, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Archiv
  • ASIN: B00099BPN8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,547 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Gluck's fortunes have risen dramatically over the last decade, with new recordings of almost all his major operas and a few rarities too. "Paride ed Elena", his third and least known Italian "reform" opera, written for Vienna in 1770, is aptly described by Paul McCreesh in the booklet to this new recording as "buried treasure". The opera's relative lack of popularity might be due to the unusual plot. In many ways, "Paride ed Elena" is the polar opposite of Gluck's more famous musical dramas, which are tragic in feeling even if they have happy endings. The tone of the libretto is light and ironic, telling the story of the Trojan prince Paris' visit to Sparta to abduct the Greek princess Helen. Amore (Cupid) plays as big a role as he does in "Orfeo" in bringing the lovers together, but here he comes across as a cheeky, rococo matchmaker. The drama, such as it is, hinges on whether Helen will give in to Paris' seduction and, whatever her hesitations, we're never in much doubt what her final decision will be. Ironically, only in the ending is there any hint of tragedy. The goddess Pallas Athena appears descending on a cloud and angrily announces, not the usual happy resolution of the story, but the great disaster of the Trojan War which will result from Paris and Helen's elopement.

The opera might be virtually unknown but its music has gradually been seeping into public consciousness. In recent years arias from "Paride" have appeared with increasing frequency on opera recital discs, not least Magdalena Kozena's own "Le Belle Immagini" which took its title from one of the finest numbers here. Now we get a chance to hear them in context. From the plot summary, it's clear there's not much dramatic tension but there is plenty of eroticism.
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Format: Audio CD
For several years, I looked at my Gluck recordings with dissatisfaction. I had two recordings of the Paride ed Elena, but neither was first-rate. They suffered either from stodgy conducting or from un-stylistic singing, and both failed to take flight with superb performances to enthrall me. Yet... they were the only two recordings of this opera.

When I saw this new recording, I could feel my breath catch in my throat. The line-up looked fantastic - Kozena and Gritton in the two lead roles, and Sampson in the smaller but important role of Amore! And listening to the recording was as blissful as I'd hoped.

The star of this recording, for me, is Magdalena Kozena. She is ardent, youthful, passionate and irresistible. Her voice has a quality that is difficult to describe - that sound which is often found in Slavic voices of the lighter type. It is not sourness, nor yet is it pain. It is not sorrow, nor tension. It is some astringency that shimmers with beauty and adds a literally terrific quality to the timbre, ensuring that Kozena's voice will not be mistaken for another's. It is a lovely voice, unique and obviously utilised with a great deal of intelligence and well-utilised drama.

Susan Gritton, a favourite singer of mine, is ravishing as the Elena. Her voice is a full-bodied Handelian lyric sound - that is, pure, rich, not overbearing, with a creaminess and purity not often found. It's a voice of considerable range, outstanding beauty, and superb flexibility. With a voice of this quality, it is hard to understand why Ms Gritton is not a household name. She is the finest Handel singer I've heard, and singing Gluck is no less ideal for her.

Carolyn Sampson as the Amore suffers a tad in contrast to these two outstanding singers.
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1 Comment 23 of 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
George Bernard Shaw said of Gluck (1714 -- 1787) that "the man is a great master". Shaw's dictum receives more and more corroboration, if any is thought necessary, with every release of a new recording of Gluck. This 2005 recording of Gluck's rarely-performed 1770 opera "Paride ed Elena" is a revelation indeed. Paul McCreesh conducts the Gabrieli Consort, on period instruments, and Gabrieli Players. A cast of four sopranos in the lead roles provides an inspiring listening experience.

Gluck was one of music's great reformers. In a series of three operas written for performance in Vienna with librettist Ranieri de'Calzabigi, the composer tried to strip down the florid style of opera of his day and to create works in which music and text combined for dramatic effect. In his musical programme, Gluck was a predecessor of Hector Berlioz, his great admirer, and of Wagner and Hugo Wolf. The two earlier Gluck-Calzabigi collaborations, Orfeo, and Alceste, are better-known than the third "Paride ed Elena". But this work is their equal.

The five-act Paride ed Elena tells the story of Paris's wooing and winning of Helen, then of Sparta, following his judgment in favor of Venus in the famous beauty contest of the goddesses. Paris's abduction of Helen, of course, became the cause of the Trojan War, but Gluck downplays this consequence for most of his opera. He focuses instead on the power of love and passion in both of his primary characters. Soprano Magdalena Kozena sings Paris in an appropriately impulsive, romantic style, while Susan Gritton, as the initially reluctant Helen, displays both coyness and the power of love and eros when it is awakened.
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