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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Il Sansone
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), Roberto Balconi (alto), Gian Paolo Fagotto (tenor), Furio Zanasi (baritone), Carlo Lepore (bass); Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45412 2
This is a highly significant disc, in two respects. Ferrari, a contemporary of Monteverdi, worked alongside him in Venice, and the duet here, ‘Pur ti miro’, is almost note-for-note that which ends Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. Was it Monteverdi’s or Ferrari’s genius which conceived the notion of two lone figures on stage to end the opera? Roberta Invernizzi and Elena Cecchi Fedi draw out its agonising dissonances with exemplary clarity.


Secondly, Ferrari’s Samson brings strikingly to life the changes occurring to musical drama during the obscure and little-recorded period after Monteverdi’s death. Il Sansone is an oratorio erotico, its audiences first titillated by Delilah’s worldly charms, then self-righteously identifying with the moralising final chorus – ‘true love is divine’.


Delilah, too, recalls Poppea in her mercurial moods, in turn petulant, bewitching and triumphant. She is magnificently portrayed by Invernizzi, while Roberto Balconi’s countertenor Ragione – Reason – invites Samson to sleep in Delilah’s arms beneath a coverlet of strings in astonishingly sensuous harmony. Throughout, recitative and arioso, always deceptively flimsy on paper, are sung with passion and purposeful pace. The acoustic provides a theatrical sense of space, with narrator and chorus – the ensemble of soloists – set a little back from the vivid action. A revelation. George Pratt