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Monteverdi: L'Orfeo / Alessandrini, Nigl, Invernizzi, Mingardo, Donato, Milanesi

Monteverdi / Alessandrini / Lsct / Milanesi
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1044  
Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Georg NiglFurio ZanasiRaffaella MilanesiSara Mingardo,   ... 
Conductor:  Rinaldo Alessandrini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraConcerto Italiano
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MONTEVERDI L’Orfeo Rinaldo Alessandrini, cond; Georg Nigl ( Orfeo ); Roberta Invernizzi ( La Musica/Euridice/Eco ); Sara Mingardo ( Sylvia/Speranza ); Luigi de Donato ( Caronte ); Raffaella Milanesi ( Proserpina ); Giovanni Battista Parodi ( Plutone ); Furio Read more Zanasi ( Apollo ); Concerto Italiano OPUS ARTE 1044 (116:00) Live: Milan 2009

Five years ago I reviewed the ego-stroking disaster that director Robert Wilson visited on Aida when he ignored the libretto, music, and stage directions to create something static and mechanistic. I’m much more impressed with this L’Orfeo . Which isn’t to say that several hallmarks of Wilson’s personal style have gone on vacation—for example, there are still plenty of performers with expressionless faces who gaze off in the distance at nothing. But where Aida , regardless of its setting, is an opera about real people dealing with their messy, genuine emotions, L’Orfeo is an opera as much about symbols as it is anything else. It can be treated as a work anchored in humanity. Ponnelle did as much, and brilliantly. Or it can be presented in any number of ways that distance its Arcadian inhabitants from us—much as Wilson does with his Henri Rousseau-like pastoral set, and the black stage for the Underworld act, a large, cutout square from which an eerie, backlit, multicolored electric glow gives hint of the land of Hades.

There is a conscious striving for surrealism here, especially in the opening scene, with its anthropomorphic, human-sized bird that functions as solo dancer during the pastoral choruses. I enjoy this, but find the gradual, subtle accumulation of sets, inventive lighting—when Orfeo breaks the commandment of the gods and looks back at Eurydice, her figure on the stage turns from solid into silhouette—evocative costumes—faint blue-gray-green for the pastoral chorus; black for Proserpina and Plutone—and the cast’s slow, dreamlike movements and gestures a better entry point to Wilson’s vision. It is built in detail, unified in thought, and convincing.

It’s worth noting, too, that Wilson isn’t as dogmatic regarding facial expressions as in some of his other efforts. La Musica stares off into the distance, but with an expression of distinct pleasure as though contemplating her glory, while Orfeo and Eurydice turn slowly to look at one another with a confiding, loving glance in the first act. This last, simple moment in particular has an unexpected emotional charge in a production where characters sing to but almost never look at one another, as no doubt Wilson expected.

The musical side of matters is in excellent hands. Roberta Invernizzi, as I’ve remarked often before, is among the most impressive sopranos we have today, both for sound and interpretative gifts. Her voice is rich in quality, varied in color, capable of sustaining a vigorous, lengthy phrase with a seemingly endless fund of breath, or launching coloratura thunderbolts. Georg Nigl’s lyrical baritone is her match, than which I know no better compliment, and he is among the finest Orfeos I’ve heard. Sara Mingardo is less tranquil, more involved than in several studio operatic recordings I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, though her expressive performance of the title role in Vivaldi’s Armida al campo d’Egitto (Naïve 30492) was a notable exception. Luigi de Donato is dramatically astute, but lacks resonance at the bottom of his voice, while Giovanni Battista Parodi’s sonorous bass, excellent phrasing, and impeccable enunciation are compromised by a regular wobble. Furio Zanasi’s warm baritone and Raffaella Milanesi’s sweet-voiced soprano finish off the list of highly regarded singers who could furnish any three recordings with star attraction—the production even has Martín Oro in the chorus. Rinaldo Alessandrini follows his singers with great sensitivity, while shaping the score for musical effectiveness. His Concerto Italiano has no problems with any of it.

The camerawork is another joy, with many long and medium-distant shots as well as close-ups of varying proximity, and superimposed screens when Orfeo and Apollo have their scene from opposite sides of the stage (presumably to emphasize the distance between mortal and god). Slow and fast zooms, shots from below and above, and cutaways maintain a variety of visual punctuation, without losing any focus on the center of dramatic activity.

The video format is a standard 16:9, with audio in LPCM 2.0, and DTS digital surround. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

In short, I’m very impressed by this L’Orfeo . From nearly every perspective it demonstrates an original but imaginative realization of the opera, and one that never loses touch with the score and the words.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Georg Nigl (Baritone), Furio Zanasi (Baritone), Raffaella Milanesi (Soprano),
Sara Mingardo (Alto), Luigi de Donato (Bass), Roberta Invernizzi (Soprano),
Giovanni Battista Parodi (Baritone)
Conductor:  Rinaldo Alessandrini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Concerto Italiano
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1607; Mantua, Italy 

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