Monteverdi: I Faggiolini/Robert Hollingworth

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: The Full Monteverdi Ð a film by John La Bouchardire: Madrigals, Book 4
WORKS: I Faggiolini/Robert Hollingworth
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 2.110224 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
When Monteverdi published his fourth book of madrigals he dedicated it to a group in Ferrara called the ‘Intrepid Ones’. A latter day member of such a group really ought to be John La Bouchardière who has taken these generalised, non-narrative musical expressions of love and tried to match them to a plot of his own devising. The whole thing is set mostly in a restaurant with various couples arguing, having affairs, and making up.

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This worked well as a live theatre piece which is how the film originated, and this small screen version presents a nicely filmed, user-friendly opportunity for access to the music. But there are hurdles as well. First, since the music has to be kept going, and there is no narrator, it is hard to gather details about the various couples and thus difficult to care about them. Second, although a number of the texts were taken by Monteverdi from a tragi-comedy (Guarini’s pastor fido, there is no comic archness to be seen or heard, only genuine tragedy – so not quite the full Monteverdi. The glorious music is sung with conviction, though I Fagiolini do have one or two tuning problems. There are no extras on the DVD, but the booklet has ample explanations from the director and singers, profiles of the participants, and full translations of the texts.