Cavalieri: Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo

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COMPOSERS: Cavalieri
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Cavalieri
WORKS: Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo
PERFORMER: Johannette Zomer, Marco Beasley, Jan vam Elsacker, Stephen MacLeod, Dominique Visse, Nuria Rial, Beatrice Mayo Felip, L’Apeggiata/Christina Pluhar
CATALOGUE NO: 65
Celebrated in music history books as the ‘first sacred opera’ (discuss), Cavalieri’s Portrayal of the Soul and Body is surprisingly seldom heard today and a good recording of this seminal work is long overdue. The text is an allegorical dialogue between the body and the soul reflecting on the inconsequence of earthly pleasures. Cavalieri’s setting is largely in dramatic monody, though choruses, madrigals and instrumental numbers help vary the texture. It’s a musical language that is notoriously difficult to bring back to life and L’Arpeggiata deserves every credit for a realisation that is sympathetic to the composer’s intentions yet has sufficient drama and colour to appeal to modern listeners.

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Soloists Johannette Zomer (Anima) and Marco Beasley (Corpo) communicate the text’s rhetoric and poetry with pliant, highly expressive delivery. They’re supported by a dazzling miscellany of instruments which creates an opulent yet luminous sound-bed. Some may be surprised by such apparently lavish ‘orchestrations’ but Cavalieri was insistent that any performance should include a large number of instruments. L’Arpeggiata also follows the composer’s wishes by interpolating the dialogue with intermedi – brief, unrelated musical numbers that add a touch of spice to the whole. The excellent recording captures every detail of this commendable performance. Kate Bolton