Cavalieri: Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cavalieri
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo
PERFORMER: Marie-Claude Chappuis, Johannes Weisser, Gyula Orendt, Mark Milhofer, Marcos Fink; Staatsopernchor, Berlin; Concerto Vocale; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/René Jacobs


A dialogue between Body and Soul – part sacred opera, part dramatic oratorio – Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo of 1600 is a kaleidoscope of arias, arioso, recitatives, choruses, dances and instrumental pieces, made all the more colourful in this account by René Jacobs who treats the work with his characteristic creative freedom.

Originally given as a staged production in the Schiller Theatre, Berlin, this is an extravagant and embellished view of the original score, at times almost Romantic with its opulent orchestral palette and lush choral singing. Adding and improvising instrumental parts (in the spirit of the early 17th-century), Jacobs and his superb musicians produce sumptuous colours and textures, ‘changing instruments to suit the feeling of the text’, as the composer himself encouraged. Acoustical effects, echoes, off-stage voices and instruments dramatise the earthly and the intangible divine.

Jacobs’s impressive cast of soloists includes mezzo-soprano Marie-Claude Chappuis, aptly androgynous as ethereal Anima (Soul), the cut-glass tenor of Mark Milhofer (Intelletto/Intellect and Piacere/Pleasure), baritones Johannes Weisser and Gyula Orendt, the former noble and resonant as Corpo (Body), the latter imposing in the roles of Tempo and Consiglio (Time and Counsel). Last but not least, bass Marcos Fink is a commanding presence as Mondo (World).

For pure theatricality, René Jacobs certainly pulls out all the stops. But for those looking for a more intimate, chamber music approach, closer to Cavalieri’s original conception yet with still a dazzling array of instrumental colour, it is worth considering the recording by L’Arpeggiata under Christina Pluhar (Alpha 065).


Kate Bolton