Composer: Gluck
Composition: Orfeo ed Euridice
Performers: Iestyn Davies ct, Sophie Bevan, Rebecca Bottone s, La Nuova Musica, David Bates
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186805 (2CD)

This live recording of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice from the 2018 London Festival of Baroque Music is a must listen. Presented in its original 1762 Vienna version, with the inclusion of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from the 1774 edition, David Bates and La Nuova Musica give the score a highly expressive reading. Thanks to Bates’ sustained, thoughtful phrasing, to the characterful horns and graceful obbligato playing from the flutes, oboes and cellos, to the brightly focused choral singing, Gluck’s opera feels as fresh and formally inventive as ever.

The soloists are marvellous, beginning with countertenor Iestyn Davies’ intensely human Orpheus. Even toned and consistently gorgeous, he balances emotional involvement with classical restraint, heard to greatest effect in his quietly anguished Che farò senza Euridice. As is typical of Davies, every syllable means something, and he brings tremendous dramatic authority to the lengthy recitatives.

As Euridice, soprano Sophie Bevan is every bit his match, moving from near catatonia to desperation and finally fury at her Orfeo’s apparent indifference. She ravishes the ear with her plangent, glowing singing, her final duets with Davies pure aural bliss.

Rounding out the trio of principals, Rebecca Bottone avoids the cutesy soubrette shtick to present an Amore of unusual gravitas. Her Gli sguardi trattieni is sublime, her final appearance a moment of true divine providence.