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Full Operas - Released June 7, 2011 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
It's not necessary to make extravagant claims for Francesco Cavalli's originality to recognize his absolute mastery of the style of mid-17th century Venetian opera perfected by Monteverdi in L'incoronazione di Poppea. The fact that he was able to keep the operatic form so fresh and vital (and most importantly, hugely entertaining) for more than a generation after Monteverdi's death is achievement enough. The modern revivals of more and more unknown Cavalli operas continue to add luster to his legacy. Artemisia overflows with examples of the first-rate inventiveness of Cavalli's imagination; examples include the magical triple echoes of Eurillo's second-act "Regina, udiste mai"; the ravishing lyricism of the aria "Ardo, sospiro, e piango"; and the expressive intensity of his slithering Gesualdo-like harmonic digressions. Like Monteverdi (and all great opera composers), Cavalli had a consummate gift for using music to drive the drama forward, and Claudio Cavina knows how to exploit that gift; he and his ensemble La Venexiana make this obscure opera spring to startling life. His singers throw themselves into their roles with unguarded passion, and even though the details of the plots may be impenetrable, the characters' emotions are urgently immediate. All of the soloists are superb. Sopranos Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli, Roberta Mameli, Valentina Coladonato, and Silvia Frigato stand out; they are simply remarkable for the piercing purity and fullness of their voices, the extravagant agility of their coloratura, and the transparent honesty of their characterizations. The instrumental ensemble plays with wonderful fluidity and Cavina draws a maximum of timbral variety from his group of 12 bowed and plucked strings. The upper strings have a somewhat nasal quality that may require a period of adjustment for modern listeners. Like Cavina's exemplary 2010 recording of L'incoronazione di Poppea with La Venexiana, his world-premiere recording of Artemisia raises the bar very high for performances of Baroque opera, or any opera, for that matter. Glossa's sound is characteristically natural, absolutely clean, and warmly enveloping. Highly recommended. © TiVo

Full Operas - Released January 1, 2007 | Glossa


Classical - Released March 29, 2010 | Glossa

This fiery performance of L'incoronazione di Poppea (referred to here as Il Nerone, the title used in Busenello's libretto) is driven by the resonant honesty of the characters' extreme and frequently volatile emotional states, which the soloists convey with singing of exceptional individuality, purity, and tonal beauty. The 2009 recording was made soon after a series of staged performances in France, Germany, and Italy, and it shows; the singers and instrumentalists have the freedom that comes from an easy familiarity with the score and with each other that allows them to perform with a spontaneity that sounds like they are making the music up on the spot. Characterizations are especially strongly drawn, and conductor Claudio Cavina is able to lead the group with the extremely flexible tempos that Monteverdi is known to have advocated. The instrumental ensemble is dominated by plucked strings, so the accompaniment initially sounds somewhat twangy and brittle, but the program notes make a strong case for the historical precedent for the use of these instruments, and the ear eventually adjusts to the sound. The performance really takes off when the principals make their entrances, and by the third scene, the erotically charged bedroom interaction with Poppea and Nero, the listener is likely to be swept up in the musical excitement and drama. Among the fabulous soloists, almost all of whom are simply outstanding, Roberta Mameli as Nero, Emanuela Galli as Poppea, Ian Honeyman as Arnalta, Xenia Meijer as Ottavia, Francesca Cassinari as Drusilla, Alena Dantcheva as Valetto, and Pamela Lucciarini as Damigella make especially vivid impressions. The only weak link is Raffaele Costantini's underpowered Seneca. The opera requires performers to make difficult editorial decisions because it exists in two very different versions, a "clean" copy of the score from Naples, and a performing score from Venice full of annotations and revisions, and neither is the original manuscript. (Neither, in fact, even definitively identifies Monteverdi as the composer.) Cavina works from the Naples version. Most significantly, he performs Act I, scene 11, exactly as written. A strophic song with a ritornello and alternating verses for Ottone and Poppea, its verses for Ottone are written in a key eccentrically distant from that of the ritornello and of Poppea's verses. Most modern performances follow the directions from the Venice version, in which a note in the hand of composer Francesco Cavalli instructs the performers to transpose Ottone's part to a more conventional key. The visceral punch the "unimproved" version delivers is a powerful musical illustration of the emotional chasm between Ottone and Poppea and is evidence that the composer may have actually known what he was doing. Cavina makes a few inoffensive editorial changes, adding some brief instrumental sinfonias, mostly by Cavalli, that were needed to cover scene changes in the staged performances. Glossa's sound is immaculate, warm, and present. Highly recommended. © TiVo

Classical - Released June 12, 2020 | Glossa

Originally recorded in an Italian villa in 1992, this release covered German solo vocal music ranging over much of the 17th century, most of it with the melancholy tone suggested by the album's title. Its release by Spain's Glossa label in 2009 was likely due to the fact that it includes music that even by then remained unfamiliar. The biggest attraction is the sextet of songs, and songs are what they are, by Adam Krieger, the founder of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum inherited by Bach decades later. Some are secular, some sacred, and they sound very little like Schütz, Schein, or the comparable Italian works of the period; they're free in shape, rather light-hearted, and apparently written for the entertainment of aristocratic amateurs. The rest of the program isn't especially cohesive, with diversions into Schütz and into the various uses of the viola da gamba, and countertenor Claudio Cavina has since gained serious competition in these repertories. The sound is hollow and murky, but despite all this, the Krieger pieces are gems that deserve a place in collections of music of the 17th century. © TiVo