Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676)
(1644, realised by Raymond Leppard)
John Wakefield (tenor, Ormindo)
Peter-Christoph Runge (baritone, Amida)
Isabel Garcisanz (mezzo, Nerillo)
Hanneke van Bork (soprano, Sicle)
Jean Allister (mezzo, Melide)
Hugues Cuénod (tenor, Erice)
Anne Howells (soprano, Erisebe)
Jane Berbié (mezzo, Mirinda)
Federico Davia (bass, Ariadeno)
Richard Van Allan (bass, Osmano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
rec. 8 November 1968, Glyndebourne Opera House. ADD.
Text not included. Synopsis only.
[73:35 + 60:02]
When this recording of L’Ormindo was released, hard on the heels of
Raymond Leppard’s performances at Glyndebourne and the Proms, Cavalli’s
operas were little known and the release had very considerable novelty
value. Add the fact that it was the first complete opera recording there
since the war and the interest was even more piqued.
Since Leppard made his own revision and arrangements of Cavalli – he did
the same for Cavalli’s La Calisto, also recently reissued on
Eloquence (4829400) – much more scholarly editions have appeared, the
manuscript is available
and new recordings have been made, which inevitably raises the question
of whether these reissues are still worth considering. Even at budget
price, there’s a rival recording of Calisto from René Jacobs on
Harmonia Mundi (HMY292151517, currently on offer at £9.93). The Pan
Classics L’Ormindo, directed by Jerôme Correas, with Sandrine Piau
sounding superb as l’Armonia in the Prologue, is also currently on offer, at £12.70
Winter 2017/18_2). If you’re wondering who sang that part for Leppard, the answer is that
he excised the Prologue in which the character appears.
A third version, available to download only, on the Datum label, also omits
the Prologue and subjects the rest of the opera to other excisions different
from but just as serious as those inflicted by Leppard.
Already in 1969, Leppard’s tinkering with the text tempered the reception of
the recording, with his view that Cavalli’s bare bones needed to be and
were intended to be filled out challenged even then. So, too, was the
process whereby the music is smoothed out with a plush sound. At least the
original release came complete with the text, as, I believe, did the
earlier Decca Serenata CDs, whereas there is none with the Eloquence release.
I complained about the lack of texts with the download of the Pan Classics
recording but, at least, there is a libretto online. It doesn’t, however,
quite match what Leppard gives us, with his many truncations, additions,
deviations and transpositions, so we have to rely on the synopsis and the
incipits of each track as listed.
The sound world of baroque opera, as we now understand it, is very
different from what we hear on this recording, especially from the string section of the LPO.
There may not be unanimous agreement on what Cavalli or Monteverdi should
sound like, but it certainly should not be what we hear here. It’s not just
a matter of the use of modern instruments; even earlier than the late 1960s
Thurston Dart was producing a sound much closer to what we now expect to
hear with his Philomusica of London. As, too, was Anthony Lewis with the
English Chamber Orchestra; the recent Eloquence reissue of their 1965
recording of Rameau’s Hippolyte at Aricie, with Dart providing the continuo, a case
in point (4829394).
All that is true, so why do I think there is still a place for this
recording for reasons other than pure nostalgia? The main reason must be
the quality of the singing: L’Ormindo may not have the advantage of
Janet Baker and James Bowman, who appear on La Calisto, but this was
a strong cast for the time and remains so. That includes Hugues Cuénod,
already 66 when recording L’Ormindo and even older in La Calisto, here reprising his drag act as the nurse Erice. The
female parts are especially well sung.
The recording has worn well, but it’s a shame that Decca couldn’t give us
the complete libretto – what would it have cost extra to have printed this
from the Serenata reissue?
All in all, only outright devotees of authenticity should be warned off.
The rest of us should approach with caution, bearing in mind the
reservations listed, but the Pan Classics recording would be the safer buy.
I'd give a stronger recommendation, too, to the Hippolyte et Aricie reissue
mentioned above, if you are looking for just one of the recent Eloquence
opera reissues. Though it, too, is cut and comes without libretto it not only
presents a more convincingly ‘baroque’ orchestral
sound but has the advantage of Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk in the
generally strong cast. It and the Cavalli reissues are currently on offer
from Presto for £9 each.
In its day, this recording merited three full stars from the Stereo Record
Guide, the predecessor of the Penguin Guide. Perhaps two stars would be nearer to
the mark for this reissue.