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Jacopo PERI (1561-1633)
Euridice

Sylva Pozzer, soprano (Euridice)
Luca Dordolo, tenor (Orfeo)
Mirko Guadagnini, tenor
Alessandro Gargiulo, tenor
Maria Antonietta Piavan, soprano
Alessandro Carmignani, tenor
Bianca Simone, mezzo-soprano
Luca Ferracin, bass
Matteo Zenatti, tenor
Loredana Putzolu, mezzo-soprano
Marisa Pugina, soprano
Chiara Drago, soprano
Antonio Domenighini, baritone
La Compagnia dei Febi Armonici
Ensemble Albalonga
Directed and conducted by Anibal E Cetrangolo
Recorded Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi 1995
PAVANE ADW 7372/73 [2 CDs 116.47]

 

Experience Classicsonline

Peri’s Euridice is often hailed as the first extant opera. Written to a text by Ottavio Rinuccino for the marriage of Henry of Navarre to Marie de Medici it was intended as a cultural trump card to demonstrate Florentine superiority. Peri employed the recitar cantando as a medium through which to convey this elevated invention – a melodic line for the singer and another instrumental part, the basso continuo; chordal progressions were suggested only in cases of doubtful interpretation. Peri’s primary objective was to promote and enhance textual understanding. It’s very much a case of music serving the text and this highlighting of the recitation seems to have been pragmatic in relation to rhythm and stress. The erudite note writer and musical director, Anibal Cetrangolo, to whom I’m indebted for his many insights, notes that Peri’s contemporary Giulio Caccini arrived at similar rhythmic and melodic solutions as Peri and that points, at least, to the highly literary nature of early opera and its promotion of clarity as a means of understanding text.

The opera proceeds as declaimed action broken by strophic passages. Classical tropes are invariably invoked – the Prologue of Monteverdi’s Orfeo with its figure of personification will be the most obvious analogue to Peri’s figure of Tragedy in the Prologue (after Luca Marenzio’s Sinfonia a 5, presumably an inauthentic instrumental interpolation, that opens the opera). The recitation is broken by choruses, sung strophically and this divides the opera into sections or Acts. The Chorus can include dance motifs or embodies Personifications (of, say, demons) and also assume the Greek ritual function familiar from extant plays.

Recitative is especially expressive and resonant in Per quel vago boschetto and there is some impressive monodic recitation in Cruda morte with its imitative choral response. I was struck by the swelling and falling of the choral outburst in S’Appenin a movement of such inherently dramatic veracity. The plangency of Orfeo’s recitative Funeste piagge is almost, in itself, a paradigm of the interior power of the operatic monologue – it’s tempting, though maybe anachronistic, to see it as foreshadowing all other developments in the self-consciousness of the operatic tradition. Poi che gli eterni imperi is also especially beautiful with its unison line gaining in depth, volume and strength. At such moments one can feel the weight of Peri’s structure taking root and burgeoning almost in spite of itself into a form far beyond its own literary constraints.

Notes are excellent – Cetrangolo has a discursive way with words that is rather whimsically appealing – and performances are good, but not outstanding. The acoustic is somewhat problematical but Pavane is to be commended for giving us the fons et origo of all operas.

Jonathan Woolf



 



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