This recording marks the 40th anniversary of The Taverner Consort and Players who, under Andrew Parrott’s direction, have served Monteverdi’s music superbly well over the years. Even so, opera is something of a new departure for the group, at least on disc, and this is not an easy opera to bring off; most of the jolly music is in the first two Acts, and the rest calls for compelling characterisation and drama.
We need not have worried. Charles Daniels is magnificent in the title role – technically brilliant (notably in Act III’s ‘Possente spirto’), impassioned (as he argues with Caronte in Act III), and lyrically supple (‘Qual honor’ in Act IV). Rather oddly, though, he never adds a note of ornamentation of his own, even when in Act V he is in dialogue with Apollo (Guy Pelc), who does.
The rest of the cast is also good: the countertenor David Hurley gives us a stylish La Musica; Faye Newton is a pure and effective Euridice; and Emily van Evera brings enormous experience to the roles of the Messenger and Proserpina (though her tone is a little thin). As one may expect from Andrew Parrott, the instruments are very adroitly deployed and controlled. The acoustic is slightly ‘churchy’, which can give an odd effect when the organ plays in the underworld scenes, and some of the speeds are a little unusual – for example, the ritornello accompanying the procession to the temple in Act I (before ‘Alcun non sia’) is quite nifty, even for the spiritually keen.