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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Arthaus DVD brings a live recording, made at Covent Garden in 1991, of Harry Kupfer’s much-praised production. Central to its success is the brilliant and moving performance of the title-role by the counter-tenor Jochen Kowalski, singing flawlessly. Though Kupfer updates the action to the present day, with Orpheus wearing leather jacket and jeans and carrying a guitar rather than a lyre, he justifies that by making the result so involving. The bizarre production never undermines the musical impact, which is heightened by the period-style practices that Harmut Haenchen persuades the Covent Garden Orchestra to adopt. Haenchen opts for the original, Vienna version of the score, sharp, direct and concise, even though that omits some of the favourite numbers which Gluck added after the original Vienna presentation. Euridice is sung very sweetly by Gillian Webster, with her white dress cloaked in black for the journey back to Hades. The character of Amor is imaginatively presented, with a boy treble, Jeremy Budd, singing very freshly from the side of the stage, while a very young child plays on the stage around the meditating Orpheus. Comparably, the chorus is set on the left, singing from choir-stalls. Bright, forward sound.

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