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The Full Monteverdi - Madrigals, Book 4

Release Date: 01/29/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 2110224  
Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE FULL MONTEVERDI Robert Hollingworth, cond; I Fagiolini NAXOS 2.110224 (DVD: 60:00 Text and Translation)

MONTEVERDI Madrigals, Book 4

Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals, published in 1603, is a setting of 19 poems by Arlotti, Gotti, Guarini, Moro, Rinuccini, Tasso, and Anonymous. Their only unity is the theme of separation, or the parting of lovers. While that is not much of a plot, an additional difficulty in creating Read more a scenario out of these texts is the madrigal form, five voices singing polyphony. Moreover, due to the varying tessitura from one to the next, a set of madrigals usually uses a group of six voices. John La Bouchardière, an opera director who knew this Fourth Book since childhood (doubtless from the Raymond Leppard cassette), realized that six couples sitting in a restaurant might be sharing, separately but simultaneously, the experience of parting. He matched the six singers of I Fagiolini to six actors and created a theatrical presentation that was given almost 90 times from 2004 to 2006. The set for the performance venue was a restaurant, the six couples sitting at tables among the audience. A minimal performance provided only six tables, one couple at each. When it came time to film the performance, the soundtrack was first recorded, then the drama was videotaped. For video, the scene of the performance was not restricted to the restaurant. Flashbacks to scenes in the homes of the six couples and other locations were inserted. The singing partners among the six couples, assisted by the paired actors carrying out the thankless task of responding to the drama silently, actually sang along to the playback for verisimilitude. What began in the restaurant with six couples dissolving their relationships concluded strikingly back at the same location with six lonely individuals sitting at separate scattered tables.

Never mind the title, which is no more than a clever play on a recent stage musical, though it does suggest stripping bare the emotions as madrigals do. This is a remarkable way of realizing a book of madrigals that was never conceived to be heard this way. It’s highly successful, whether you watch with the English subtitles on or off. Not a word is spoken, for apart from ambient sound there is nothing to be heard but the singing, interrupted only by the briefest of pauses. The emotional expression on all the faces is convincing, an aspect that could easily have spoiled the effect. Repeated viewing will certainly reveal overlooked details, as the viewer becomes familiar with the dozen personalities that pop up in succession with some rapidity. Remember, six amorous breakups are unfolding simultaneously, the emotions and meanings of the madrigals applying equally to all of them. The production was made jointly for five national television systems and Naxos, and it has been broadcast since last autumn. This is a remarkably original conception, carried out with astonishing success. I have never realized the meaning of a set of madrigals as clearly as I did here.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: Dolby Digital Stereo / Surround / DTS Surround
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English
Running time: 60 mins

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Works on This Recording

Madrigals, Book 4 by Claudio Monteverdi
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1603; Mantua, Italy 

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