Gluck - Alceste (Stuttgart Opera) (DVD) ~ Nele Mnnchmeyer (direc... Cover Art

Gluck - Alceste (Stuttgart Opera) (DVD)

Catherine Naglestad, Donald Kaasch, Catriona Smith, Wolfgang Probst, Bernhard Schneider

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This modern-dress staging from Staatsoper Stutgart is exceedingly dull to watch. The chorus on occasion ismade to sing with music stands and is conducted onstage. The grey-walled sets are as drab as can be, while the costumes are totally contemporary and without distinctiveness (the heroine looks like your basic political wife in a conservative suit and a hairdo reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy). The clueless stage direction pulls every trace of nobility from a heroine who by nature is nothing if not noble. American soprano Catherine Naglestad's vocal security does impress in Alceste's formidably difficult music, but a good Gluckian needs considerable intensity and detail in delivering the text, and here Naglestad disappoints. In contrast, one could take dictation from tenor Donald Kaasch, whose clear diction is his greatest asset as Alceste's husband Adm├Ęte (he works pretty hard for his top notes, alas). There's a fair amount of poor French in the supporting cast, whose singing ranges from fair to poor. Conductor Constantinos Carydis pulls a good deal of passion from the Stuttgart orchestra, who get admirably close to an original-instrument sound. Still, it's unfortunate that this version of the opera leaves so much to be desired. --Roger Pines

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