Album: Gluck, Alceste – Royal Opera House/Mackerras (Royal Opera House Heritage Series)

Recorded live in December 1981, when period instruments were still a novelty and Gluck's reputation as a dramatist had yet to be fully restored, this vintage performance of 'Alceste' has vitality and freshness.

Under Charles Mackerras, the Orchestra of the ROH play with stripped-down strings and sombre wind. Janet Baker's intelligence, diction and flexible tone make for a heroine of great authority – qualities that are matched in Robert Tear's bright-toned, incisive Admète. But for the occasional intrusion of applause and expectoration, and some weary choruses, this is as fine an 'Alceste' as you could hear.

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