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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
L'Orfeo
Emanuela Galli (La Musica / Euridice)
Mirko Guadagnini (Orfeo)
Marina De Liso (Messaggiera)
Cristina Calzolari (Proserpina)
Matteo Bellotto (Plutone)
JosŤ Maria Lo Monaco (Speranza)
Salvo Vitale (Caronte)
Vincenzo Di Donato (Apollo)
Francesca Cassinari (Ninfa)
La Venexiana/Claudio Cavina
rec. San Carlo Church, Modena, Italy, February 2006
GLOSSA GCD920941 [52:34 + 62:18]

When it comes to opera, I tend to think that it should be experienced as a visual as well as an aural spectacle. That is why I prefer my opera recordings on DVD rather than CD wherever possible, and Monteverdi is no different. My favourite DVD of L'Orfeo is that by Jordi Savall for the Grand Teatre del Liceu (OA0842 D). That said, I know a couple of versions of this opera well. Those include the John Elliott Gardiner (4192502), which now sounds a little dated. I have even heard the original version of the present set. Originally released in an award winning, special-edition book form in 2007 (GCD 920913), it has been neatly packaged in two slim-line CD cases and a booklet in a slip case—just in time for the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

From the opening bars of the Toccata and through the Prologo, there is a sense that this recording is going to be something special, and so it proves. It seems to have benefited from the years of period performance practice; this is a product of everything good that has gone before. Tempos seem spot on, singing is well measured, but most of all the basso continuo is given a more important and prominent role. It is something I feel Claudio Cavina has brought from his recordings of Monteverdi’s complete books of madrigals (GCD 920929).

The singing is excellent throughout. For me, the central female role is not that of Euridice but that of the Messaggiera. It is she who conveys the dreadful news that Euridice was bitten by the snake and died. For sheer emotion, Sara Mingardo for Savall is hard to beat in this role. She seems to have a real tear in her eye as she sings of Euridice’s death, and it always brings a lump to my throat. Here Marina De Liso manages to convey a lot of that emotion in her voice alone, although she is greatly helped by the sombre playing of the orchestra in the following music; this keeps the sense of loss more prevalent than in the Gardiner version. Emanuela Galli is very good as Euridice, whilst Mirko Guadagnini is the best Orfeo I have heard. He is even better than Furio Zanasi for Savall, who also suffers from the occasional wooden acting. Salvo Vitale as Caronte deserves special mention. Here is a bass who can plumb the depths of Hades, his voice set against the somewhat sinister sound of the regale making a fitting departure from the land of the living into the land of the dead. Indeed, all principal singers are in fine voice and add greatly to the overall effect of this production.

Both the chorus and orchestral players perform to their best ability, making the overall sound one that could easily persuade me away from the DVD versions. Claudio Cavina’s direction is excellent. One gets a real sense of intelligent scholarship behind this recording, tweaking phrases and vocals to wring the last ounce of emotion out of the music. This is a wonderful recording, one which shows just what a groundbreaking achievement this opera was.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Simon Thompson

 

 




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