Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride is a noble piece in which the composer eliminates the trills and frills of the baroque for a simple but intense and moving recreation of the Greek original. Sadly, its presentation at Geneva’s Grand Théâtre was misconceived. The set and costumes effectively represented the distant world of primitive peoples in awe of their gods, but did we have to endure the sight (and at some moments sounds) of blood dripping from corpses hanging as if in an abbatoir? Indeed, for the most part the production totally destroyed the simplicity and static quality of the piece. There was much scampering on stage and dozens of mannequins representing the principals and chorus had to be hauled around, imitating the dramatic action. Perhaps this was an attempt to convey the idea of ritual which, until the end, supersedes human feeling. But it was cumbersome and a distraction – and we could sense that the soloists were ill at ease in coping with it. This applies particularly to Anna Caterina Antonacci in the title role. Although she sang well, she appeared to be discomforted by what was going on around her. Bruno Taddei as Orestes threw himself around the stage in an unconvincing attempt to communicate the grief of disloyalty to his pal Pylades (ably sung by Steve Davislim). With the Suisse Romande Orchestra in the pit, we were promised refined sounds, but Hartmund Haenchen’s conducting was uninspiring with its excessively regular, and insufficiently flexible, beat. At the end, the audience were with justification coolly unenthusiastic.