Caccini: Euridice

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Caccini
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Caccini: Euridice
WORKS: Euridice
PERFORMER: Silvia frigato, Furio Zanasi, Giampaolo Fagotto, Luca Dordolo, Sara Mingardo, Monica Piccinini, Antonio Abete , matteo Belloto, Mauro Borgioni; Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30552

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There are surprisingly few recordings of Caccini’s Euridice, despite its historical significance as one of the first surviving operas, and its numerous pre-echoes of Monteverdi’s more celebrated work, L’Orfeo, based on the same myth. Indeed, Euridice presents an unusual idiom for listeners today, the drama unfolding in a fluid recitative that melts only occasionally into fleeting arias and choruses. Performances stand or fall, therefore, on the singers’ ability to narrate the fable and convey the exquisite nuances of Rinuccini’s poetry, and on the continuo players’ response to the natural speech rhythms and inflections.

With its stylish Italian cast directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini (now something of an éminence grise in the early music scene), this, then, is a precious recording, made at the 2013 Innsbruck Early Music Festival. It may not be as pristine as a studio production, and there are a few moments of slack ensemble, but the performance has a sense of dramatic spontaneity and a linearity often missing from more heavily edited versions. Silvia Frigato is suitably dewy-voiced in the title role, while baritone Furio Zanasi is a persuasive Orfeo, shaping the demi-god’s laments and incantations with subtle rhetoric. Bass Antonio Abete makes a formidable Plutone, and Sara Mingardo’s androgynous contralto hints at the ethereal quality of the lost castrato voice, so much part of the soundscape of these early operas.

My one cavil is that the continuo realisation is rather rigid and brittle, especially when compared with the pliant realisation, full of subtly variegated timbres, by Scherzi Musicali – an exquisitely intimate account, directed by latter-day Orpheus Nicolas Achten – in their recording of the work on Ricercar. Nonetheless, Concerto Italiano delivers an eloquent piece of musical story telling.

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Kate Bolton