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For me the major significance of Orfeo ed Euridice is not its place in the so-called ‘reform’ of opera, which is exaggerated, but rather its unique ability to express grief and loss with simple, intensely touching dignity. It is this Classical restraint that lies at the heart of this quite exceptional performance of the original Vienna version of 1762. This is not to suggest there is anything remotely underplayed in Fagioli’s assumption of the role, or indeed the performance as a whole.

The scenes with the restored Euridice, the exceptional Malin Hartelius, simmer with repressed physical desire, while the drama of the Hades scene is articulated not only by Fagioli’s exquisite shaping of Orfeo’s pleas, but the raw brutality of Accentus’ Furies. Among the many qualities of Fagioli’s richly conceived performance, let me highlight ‘Che puro’, sung with exquisite purity of line and ever mounting intensity. Add a perfectly charming Amore from Emmanuelle de Negri, the splendid playing of Insula and the superbly dramatic conviction of Laurence Equilbey’s direction, and what you have is unquestionably one of the top versions of this infinitely moving work.

It remains to add that the set includes a third CD that conflates excerpts with the additions Gluck composed for the 1774 Paris version, a nice touch that gives the best of both worlds.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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