Alan Curtis, described by the New York Times' as 'one of the great scholar-musicians of recent times', conducts a brilliant cast in the original, 1750 version of Gluck's Ezio, described by Curtis as 'from a dramatic point of view, perhaps the finest of Gluck's pre-Orfeo operas'.
Written to a libretto by the prolific and influential Metastasio, Ezio exemplifies the formal opera seria that Gluck sought to leave behind with his so-called reform operas such as Orfeo and Alceste; but after Orfeo's epoch-making premiere in Vienna in 1762 he revised Ezio for performance at the city's Burgtheater in 1763.
'Gluck's revisions to Ezio were not motivated not by any dissatisfaction with the work itself, but by the larger size of the Burgtheater and the concomitant need for a larger orchestra,' explains Alan Curtis. 'Ezio is one of Metastasio's most dramatic operas. It is also one of the few with a plot totally lacking any absurdities or situations which modern listeners could find difficult to accept. An unfortunate aspect of the later version is the omission of the magnificent aria for the tenor, Massimo – 'Se povero il ruscello'. Gluck had adapted it for Orfeo, where it became 'Che puro ciel', so the Viennese public already knew it too well. We are especially happy to be able to include it in this new recording, sung magnificently by Topi Lehtipuu.' Curtis provides illuminating insights into Gluck's place in operatic history. 'For a while during the twentieth century, Gluck was almost reduced to being a one-opera composer: the composer of Orfeo. One could even say that he suffered from too much praise as the reformer, the saviour of opera -- integrating the chorus into the action, liberating opera from the da capo aria and from solo virtuosity. But these days solo virtuosity and da capo variations are very much back in fashion, and people have come to realise that, especially in the first half of his mature years, he was also a master of this 'old-fashioned' seria style.'
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