Met opera presents ‘Iphigenie en Tauride’ | SummitDaily.com
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Met opera presents ‘Iphigenie en Tauride’

Elmer Koneman
special to the daily

A live broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera production of “Iphigenie en Tauride” will begin at 11 a.m., Saturday, in the auditorium at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. This dramatic opera is written by Austrian composer Christoher Gluck and is based on the tragedy written by the ancient Greek playwright, Euripides.

The opera opens in the temple of the goddess, Diana, where the Greek Princess lphigenia, along with other princesses, pray for calm after a storm arises in the sea. lphigenia in particular is seized by a vision of the tragedy of her own family, in which memories of her father’s death at the hands of her mother, Clytemnestra, in turn killed by her brother, Oreste (soon to appear on the scene incognito), come into full view. Iphigenia herself had been rescued by Goddess Diana, from a ritual death to have been imposed by her now dead father and brought for refuge in the distant region of Scythia, where she lives among the Taurians as a priestess.

Soon to appear are two young Greeks, Oreste and his friend Pylade, who had been cast ashore by the recent severe storm. Thoas, the Sythian ruler, has made it known that the Oracle has informed him that his life is in danger unless a stranger is sacrificed, which put these two young Greeks in immediate danger. In fact, lphigenia has been given the task by Thoas of carrying out the sacrifice of one of the two young strangers, one her brother, who at the time she does not recognize.

The following act is in the prison cell where Oreste and Pylade lament that one of them must die. Iphigenia then appears to question the two prisoners, learning in the process her family history from Oreste. It is only in Act III that lphigenia, reflecting on what she has learned, decides to spare Oreste. However, he and Pylade together decide that Oreste should be sacrificed, which lphigenia is forced to accept.

In Act IV, at the time of his sacrifice, Oreste publically invokes the memory of his sister lphigenia, who now realized who he is and pleads with Thaos that she cannot sacrifice her brother. At the same time, Pylade, who had escaped from the prison, returns with a band of Greek men to challenge the threat of Thaos. In the battle that ensues, Thaos is killed by Pylade. The Goddess Diana again appears in a cloud and initiates the return of Oreste and lphigenia to their homeland. Thus, a happy ending by ancient Greek standards.

The part of lphigenia is performed by Susan Graham, a role for which she has been singularly identified and highly acclaimed as “singing with floating richness, tenderness, and with quiet eloquence of prayer.” The part of Oreste is performed by Placido Domingo, now in his seventh decade, with voice still strong and accompanied by “canny pacing, charisma, and force of will.” The part of his companion, Pylade is performed by the tenor Paul Groves, who has “captured Gluck’s beautiful simplicity, singing with shining tone and a fluid line.”

Gluck’s composition at the time was considered “groundbreaking,” as music and drama were unified in focus on the story and putting the protagonists and their emotions in the spotlight. The young Franz Schubert, hearing the opera for the first time shortly after it was composed, was described as “being totally beside himself over the effects of this magnificent music,” further asserting that “there could be nothing more beautiful in the world.” Those who have experienced the current Metropolitan Opera production, did not find this notion to be far-fetched.

Again, we express our appreciation to Colorado Mountain College and the National Repertory Orchestra for providing the monetary, technical and staff support to make these opera experiences available to residents and visitors in Summit County and surrounding communities.


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