Adria McCulloch and Eric Sampson as Armide and Renaud, Gluck's Armide, Maryland Opera Studio, photo © Cory Weaver 2007
Tara McCredie (La Haine), Adria McCulloch (Armide), and Eric Sampson (Renaud) in Gluck's Armide, Maryland Opera Studio, photo © Cory Weaver 2007
For more information, if you are a masochist, see my doctoral dissertation on operas and other musical theater derived from the epics of Ariosto and Tasso. While I was writing my dissertation, I would have appreciated the opportunities I later had, of hearing Gluck's Armide in a concert performance in Paris and especially owning the superb recording of this opera made by Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre. This is the first time I have seen the opera staged. There are many similarities between the Lully and Gluck versions, musically, that is, beyond the fact that they use the same libretto. (Gluck chose not to set the sycophantic prelude that Lully's opera addressed quite specifically to Louis XIV.)
Ronni Reich, This 'Armide' Proves to Be a Choice Blend (Washington Post, April 22)
Karren L. Alenier, The Cruelty of Armide's Beauty (The Dresser, April 21)
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Gluck, Armide, M. Delunsch, L. Naouri, E. Podleś, M. Kožená, Les Musiciens du Louvre, M. Minkowski (1999)
Ryan Brown led his orchestra through an energetic performance, perhaps a little too strong for some of the smaller voices. Soprano Adria McCulloch was vocally potent and ravishing to behold in the revealing costumes by Martha Mann. She had her best scenes with Tara McCredie's venemous La Haine, as Armide's spiteful alter-ego, and the robust Darren Perry as Hidraot but seemed mismatched with Eric Sampson's Renaud. The singers in minor roles pleased less, and the pathetic attempt to stage the dance music bordered on ridiculous. The production directed by Leon Major, although elegantly minimalistic, may have exaggerated the sense of unevenness between Armide and Renaud, represented by two opposing visual worlds. Armide seems to have been the leader of a cult for leather and bondage freaks -- the natural prop for this Armide to carry would have been a riding crop -- and Renaud was an apparently curious member of a beret-wearing para-militia. Except for the well-acted intensity of McCulloch's Armide, the staging was quickly forgotten. Still, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this production, because it provided the chance to see an operatic rarity live on the stage and in a compelling performance.
The Maryland Opera Studio will conclude its successful season with a revue of opera scenes (April 26 and 27) at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.