Friday, May 20, 2011

WNO's Iphigénie en Tauride—the perfect opera

What a delight—this was one of the best productions I've ever attended. I could quibble a little bit with costumes but everything else was exceptional.

Oreste (Placido Domingo, right) begs Iphigénie (Patricia Racette) to condemn him to death so Pylade may live. Washington National Opera's production of “Iphigénie en Tauride.”
Scott Suchman, Handout photo / May 12, 2011

If opera had somehow become so unfashionable, so unthinkable that no one dared create another one after 1779, we'd still be well off, for that would mean we'd still have an incredible work from that year — Christoph Willibald Gluck's “Iphigénie en Tauride”.

This fusion of exquisite music and telling dramatic substance, based on ancient Greek tales involving the ill-fated family of Agamemnon, has in recent years been attracting fresh attention. Helping to fuel the attention is the fact that tenor Placido Domingo added the role of Oreste from “Iphigénie” to his unprecedentedly extensive repertoire.

In one of his parting gifts to the company he has run as general director for 15 years, Domingo is singing that role for Washington National Opera's first-ever production of “Iphigénie.” He is by no means the only draw, for the lineup also boasts soprano Patricia Racette, one of today's most incisive vocal artists, in the title role. The rest of the cast, too, proves quite effective.

Smith, T. (2011), Savoring the rare beauty of ‘Iphigénie’:WNO production of Gluck opera soars with Domingo, Racette, The Baltimore Sun, May 12, 2011.

When the cast came on stage for the final bows Domingo addressed the audience. “No,” he said, “I'm not retiring. 50 years ago, May 19, 1961, I made my debut as Alfredo in ‘La Traviata’—and I just wanted to share this very special day with you.” Amazing!