For their eleventh recording on Telarc, Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque turn to the music of Handel's younger contemporary, Christoph Willibald Gluck, in his intensely felt retelling of the Greek tragedy, Iphigénie en Tauride, premiered in Paris in 1779. The story is based on the plays of Euripides, Racine and de la Touche, and tells of Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, a priestess of Diana living on the island of Tauris as a captive of the barbaric Scythians. Unbeknownst to her, her brother Orestes and his friend Pylades are shipwrecked on the island and are in prison awaiting execution. As Iphigenia is about to sacrifice Orestes at the behest of the Scythians, brother and sister recognize one another. The opera ends happily with Orestes and Iphigenia reunited and protected by the goddess Diana from further persecution by the Scythians.
Iphigénie en Tauride was Gluck's greatest success, and the culmination of his operatic "reforms." The music is simple, direct, and nearly continuous. "With recitative and aria melting into each other, with the musical line cleansed of excessive ornament, with the orchestra's psychological commentary, it penetrates right to the heart of its characters' horrific dilemmas," wrote Ellen Pfeifer in the Boston Globe.
In the title role, once so famously portrayed by Maria Callas, is soprano Christine Goerke, who performed the part to rapturous reviews in a 1997 co-production of the opera by the Glimmerglass Opera and the New York City Opera. "Christine Goerke is an ideal Iphigenia," said David Patrick Stearns in USA Today. "The voice is big but full of delicate shadings." And Newsday's Martin Bernheimer commented that Goerke "sang with uncommon warmth and opulence buoyed by virtually unflagging power." This is the soprano's first complete opera recording.
Baritone Rodney Gilfry came to national attention in 1998-99 when he created the role of Stanley Kowalski in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. He made his Glyndebourne Festival debut opposite Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in Capriccio, sang the title role in Zurich Opera's new Don Giovanni under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is the first recording of Iphigénie en Tauride to be made with a period instruments ensemble. Included on Disc Two is a commentary on the opera by Boston Baroque founder and director Martin Pearlman.