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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: La resurrezione di Lazzaro
PERFORMER: Roberta Giua, Luca Dordolo, Rosita Frisani; Athestis Chorus, Academia de li Musici/Filippo Maria Bressan
Virtually forgotten after his death, Antonio Calegari (1757-1828) won local fame in and around his native Padua as a composer of opera and church music. Lazzaro (1779), his earliest surviving work, in effect combines both genres, treating its sacred subject as an opera seria without stage action. The booklet note makes an eloquent case for the defence, stressing the work’s dramatic and spiritual power, and its ‘restrained but emotional mysticism’. In fact, the idiom, typically for the time, is unashamedly secular. Calegari’s invention, if not specially distinctive, includes an appealing vein of pastoral lyricism, as in the aria with flute obbligato for Lazarus’s sister Magdalene; and there is an impressive, dignified opening choral tableau – shades here of Gluck’s Orfeo. But the key dramatic moment of Lazarus’s resurrection is tamely handled, while elsewhere too many numbers overdose on vapid coloratura. The Paduan forces give an adequate performance, no more, with moments of slack, sourly tuned playing from the period orchestra. All the soloists sing pleasantly enough, though only the stylish Rosita Frisani, as Magdalene, and the soft-grained mezzo Manuela Custer emerge from their coloratura skirmishes unscathed. Richard Wigmore