Notes and Editorial Reviews
Having just accidentally happened upon a 1949 recording of this opera led by Helmut Koch that presented it as a dirge beyond compare, I was stunned anew by this new Naïve set for its reminder of how valuable the last quarter century's research truly is. The work's beauty and theatricality, when presented correctly, are still very powerful. The story is passionately told here--the rhythms in the first two acts are rustic and lusty and there is such an all-encompassing feeling of celebration that we get swept up in it. The dances seem utterly natural. When the Messenger enters (in the person of the remarkable Sara Mingardo) with the dreadful news about Eurydice it hits everyone between the eyes.
Never before have I sensed in a recording the absolute change of mood, the pinpoint turn from gaiety to tragedy. And the rest of the storytelling is just as vivid.
Perhaps it's because the cast is Italian and they use their language with such ease, natural lilt, and emphasis that they are actually "speaking in music", which after all was the whole gimmick behind opera. The vocal embellishments heighten the drama, as they should, and do not draw attention to themselves. Alessandrini opts for quick tempos except when he absolutely does not; in the accompanying booklet he argues for flexibility in delivering the recitatives so that they fall into natural speech patterns, and his choices here simply seem right.
Furio Zanasi (billed here as a tenor but as a baritone on other recordings; he sounds like a high baritone) sings Orfeo with great virtuosity and emotional restraint. Even in "Rendetimi il mio bene" near the close of the third act he does not overstate his case at first, and his plea, increasing in volume, is enormously effective. Sergio Foresti's Caronte is nicely sepulchral, which somewhat undercuts Antonio Abete's more matter-of-fact Plutone, but Anna Simboli makes up for it as Prosperina. None of the singers uses "white" voice; vibrato is subdued but present. This makes sense given Alessandrini's extroverted use of the instruments--the cornets and drums are brilliant. In short, this set, along with the Haim/Bostridge performance on Virgin, are must-haves for Monteverdi fans.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi
Sergio Foresti (Bass),
Sara Mingardo (Alto),
Anna Simboli (Soprano),
Furio Zanasi (Tenor),
Monica Piccinini (Soprano),
Luca Dordolo (Tenor),
Antonio Abete (Bass)
Written: 1607; Mantua, Italy
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