Cavalli Il Giasone

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COMPOSERS: Francesco Cavalli
ALBUM TITLE: Cavalli Il Giasone
WORKS: Il Giasone
PERFORMER: Christophe Dumaux


First performed in 1649, Il Giasone could only emanate from Venice. Like Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Francesco Cavalli’s dramma per musica is a lusty farce of bickering deities, toothless nurses, stuttering servants and ignoble nobles. Sex is its subject, variously depicted as a breathless tumble, a mind-mangling addiction or something between a sacrament and a spa treatment, as Jason (Christophe Dumaux) idles blissfully in Colchis with the enchantress Medea (Katarina Bradic´). He has forgotten his quest for the Golden Fleece, his twin sons and his grieving wife, Hypsipyle (Robin Johannsen). Men, huh.

Recorded live from Mariame Clément’s 2010 Vlaamse Opera production, the performance is a mixed bag. It was not, as the liner notes claim, the ‘modern times premiere’ of Il Giasone; Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company staged it two years earlier at Iford Manor, Wiltshire, with smaller forces and to superior effect. Listening to this new version, with its footfall of stage-business and audience laughter, is a little like eavesdropping on a next-door neighbour’s party. Though Johannsen sings stylishly, Bradic´’s jolie laide Medea is slow to warm up, while Dumaux’s shapely countertenor is too delicate to suggest a man of action. Among the supporting cast, there are some voices that could curdle cream and others that sound as old as the opera, an anomaly from this usually canny company. Orchestrally it’s a delight, sensually swung on a hammock of lutes and harpsichords by conductor Federico Maria Sardelli, zestful in the Act II combattimento, bone-chilling in the sharp sforzandos of Medea’s incantation. Assiduous collectors may be tempted nonetheless to source a second-hand copy of René Jacobs’s 1988 recording.


Anna Picard