Cavalli: La Calisto

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Cavalli
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: La Calisto
PERFORMER: Ugo Trama, Peter Gottlieb, Ileana Cotrubas, James Bowman, Janet Baker, Hugues Cuenod, Owen Brannigan, Teresa Kubiak; Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, LPO/Raymond Leppard
CATALOGUE NO: 436 216-2 ADD
Cavalli’s prodigious, if neglected, output – he wrote more than 40 operas between 1639 and 1666 – owes much to the fact that he notated only the vocal line and bass, adding indications of sinfonias and orchestration rather than writing out the full score. This excellent recording, made at Glyndebourne in 1972, therefore owes much to Raymond Leppard whose recomposition it uses. As conductor, he also extracts compelling performances from his stellar cast. Janet Baker is a glorious and majestic Diana, James Bowman a sublime Endymion and Ileana Cotrubas a mellifluous Calisto. There are enchanting cameos from the veteran Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod (then aged 70) in the drag role of the crude and crotchety nymph Linfea, Teresa Kubiak as a soaring and tormented Juno, and Janet Hughes deliciously ardent and earthy as the young satyr.

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But there is more to this recording than just impeccable singing. It is marvellously focused dramatically – however absurd this classical tale of jealousy, disguise and misadventure among the gods and nymphs, their passions run high and are absolutely credible in their intensity. With superb and urgent playing from the London Philharmonic, and bright, vivid and varied acoustic (the prologue was recorded in the Organ Room, rather than on the main stage, to achieve a more ethereal atmosphere), this is a heavenly recording both in its realisation and its subject. Claire Wrathall