- Iphigénie en Tauride, opera in 4 acts, Wq. 46
With their superb recordings of Rameau and Gluck operas, conductor Marc Minkowski and his magnificent Musiciens du Louvre have cornered the market on 18th-century French opera. Here they take on Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (their version of Armide was released in 1999), and the results are every bit as impressive. Recorded live in a Paris radio studio, the sound is full and well balanced, polished to a soft sheen. Mireille Delunsch is in fine, fresh voice as Iphigénie, and Simon Keenlyside likewise as her brother Orestes. Most impressive, however, is the expert playing of the original instrument ensemble Les Musiciens du Louvre, who bring sparkle and spirit to the elegant score. Although Orfeo ed Euridice is surely Gluck's best-known opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, his penultimate, stands beside it as one of the composer's great achievements. Indeed, the success of the opera at its premiere confirmed Gluck's agenda of operatic reform, begun with Orfeo. Showing the composer's nonconformist bent, it begins not with a formal overture, but with a brief, restful prelude that in short measure turns to a stirring evocation of a powerful storm -- setting in motion the tragic events of Euripides' tale. We are at once drawn in to the drama with Iphigénie's cry, "Great Gods!" And from there on, the intensity never wanes in this beautifully polished performance.