This recording represents a rarity in the history of the Metropolitan Opera. When Stephen Wadsworth’s moody, imaginative production of Iphigénie en Tauride debuted in 2007, it was only the sixth performance of Gluck’s great and unjustly neglected 1779 opera in the Met’s history. This Live in HD broadcast captures the 2011 revival of Mr Wadsworth’s production and features a starry, charismatic cast delivering a dramatically compelling and musically satisfying performance.

Gluck’s opera, based on the 1757 play by Claude Guymond de la Touche (itself based on Euripides’ tragedy), follows a version of the Agamemnon myth in which Iphigénie is saved from death by sacrifice on the altar at Aulis by the goddess Diana. Swept away to Tauris, Iphigénie serves as the high priestess in Diana’s temple and oversees the ritual sacrifice of any foreigners who have the misfortune of landing on the Scythians’ island. 

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Mr Wadsworth’s production forsakes baroque designs in favor of a darker, earthier theatrical concept rooted in mythology and melodrama. It is a full-blooded affair, balanced between stylized, gestural choreography for the chorus and the direct, impassioned performances of the principals. Under the baton of Patrick Summers, the Met Orchestra makes a persuasive case for Gluck’s score as one of the great glories of the operatic repertoire, capturing both the music’s lyrical, meditative beauty and its taut, dramatic power.

In the title role, Susan Graham delivers a sensitive and striking performance, her rich mezzo-soprano coloring the text with mournfulness, vulnerability and dignity. Ms Graham’s tragic lamentation in the powerful aria, “Ô Malhereuse Iphigénie”, is one of the vocal highlights of this recording. Haunted by memory and dark foreboding, Ms Graham’s Iphigénie provides a compelling dramatic and psychological center to Wadsworth’s production.

Oreste was the 125th role in Plácido Domingo’s illustrious career, and this seemingly ageless wonder of the opera world performs the low-tenor role (adapted from the original baritone part) with characteristic charisma, remarkable vigor and undeniable nobility.

Tenor Paul Groves, in the role of Oreste’s companion Pylade, offers some of the purely beautiful music-making of the production, singing with sweetness, ardor, limpidity, and passion. Gordon Hawkins provides imposing, baritone menace as the evil King Thoas. The Met Chorus, under the direction of Donald Palumbo, sings with focused intensity and pathos.