Sunday, April 17, 2011

Great Barihunk Operas: Gluck's "Iphigénie en Tauride"

Christoph Zadra as Agamemnon (Center & Right) in Vienna

There are certain operas that give us particular delight, as they are both musically rich and filled with roles for barihunks. Don Giovanni, The Pearl Fishers, Billy Budd, Carmen and The Rape of Lucretia come immediately to mind. When looking through our stats of our most popular posts, it dawned on us that singers who performed in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride were some of our most popular singers. Among those are Rod Gilfry, Stephane Degout, Nathan Gunn and our all-time most popular barihunk Gabriel Bermudez.

We couldn't resist posting Christoph Zadra, who is pictured above. He is 34-year-old Viennese actor who works primarily in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. He was Agamemnon in the Vienna production of Iphigénie en Tauride with Stephane Degout and showed up in a number of the publicity shots (apparently for good reason).

Stephane Degout as Oreste in Vienna

Iphigénie en Tauride premiered in Paris in 1779 and was part of his reform movement that forever changed opera. Like Beethoven's Fidelio it is filled with a message of humanity and it became Gluck's greatest success during his lifetime. It's great to see it returning to the repertory of opera houses throughout the world, as it's an amazing piece of theater and filled with some of the most beautiful music ever written. The libretto was written by Nicolas-François Guillard and is based on Euripides great story. Like any great story, it is filled with emotion and conflict which creates moral dilemmas and turmoil for the characters.

Here is an extended scene with Rod Gilfry and tenor Deon van der Walt, which ends in the great baritone aria "Dieux protecteurs de ces affreux." You can watch the entire performance on YouTube at the site of carrangel2:

The story of the opera is pretty straightforward: Iphigenia has been saved from being sacrificed by her father. She now lives on the island of the Taurians and has the task of killing any foreigner that comes to the island seeking refuge. Her dreams are plagued by memories of the bloody destruction of her family. She does not know that her brother Orestes was able to escape the massacre. Years later she sees him and his friend Pylades who have been taken prisoner by the Taurians. But brother and sister fail to recognise each other. However, the unknown prisoner reminds Iphigenia of Orestes, so she decides to save him. Orestes, though, prefers to face death instead of Pylades. During the sacrifice, brother and sister recognise each other. Just as Thoas, the king of the Scythians, is about to kill Orestes, Pylades suddenly appears and murders the king. The people sing in praise of the coming peace and the end of the wars on Tauris.

Zadra & Degout in Vienna; Bermudez in Zurich

Clearly, readers of this site love Gabriel Bermudez in this role, as you've made him our most popular singer. Unfortunately, his YouTube site does not allow embedding, so we can't post the video of his singing "Dieux protecteurs de ces affreux," but you can watch it by clicking HERE.

Lately, the great tenor Placido Domingo has been taking up baritone roles, including Orestes in Iphigénie en Tauride. His performance at The Met was a huge success and now he's taken it to the Washington National Opera in Washington D.C., where we've learned that another one of our Über-popular singers, Randal Turner, is covering for the 70-year-old conductor/singer/impresario. Certainly, Turner would be about as perfect for this role as any singer around today. For those of you who still prefer a baritone in the role, we'll make sure to let readers know if Turner is scheduled to perform. Performances run from May 6-28 with a cast that includes the great soprano Patricia Racette as Iphigenie and barihunk Simone Alberghini as Thoas. Click HERE for additional cast and performance information.

Randal Turner: The next great Orestes?

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  1. Agamemnon is not a character of Iphigenie en Tauride... are you perhaps mixing Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride with the one in Aulide?

  2. Of course the ultimate Iphigenie was at Glimmerglass over 10 years ago with Nathan Gunn and William Burden wearing nothing but loin clothes and bound together! Oh lordy.

    And I have to agree with Anon on that one - Agamennon is not a character in the Tauride opera.

  3. He Was an actor portraying Agamemnon in that production. There was also a Agamemnon in Stephen Wadsworths production at the MET. snooty opera queens always think they always know it all.

  4. Oh come on! it's not about "knowing it all", it's just a fact that Agamemnon is not a character in the Iphigenie en Tauride but it's a main character of the Aulide one.
    Wondering if there was a mixing of the two Iphigenias didn't seem a capital offense to me!