WORKS: La Disgrazie d’amore
PERFORMER: Cristiana Arcari, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Furio Zanasi, Paolo Lopez, Carlos Natale, Gabriella Martellacci, Martin Oro, Elena Cecchi Fedi; Auser Musici/Carlo Ipata
CATALOGUE NO: 153:32 mins (2 discs)
Antonio Cesti’s claim to fame is that he wrote the most spectacular Baroque opera ever (Il pomo d’oro) which lasted for eight hours. This one, The Misfortunes of Love, is mercifully shorter. Composed for Vienna in 1667, it is centred upon Venus, Vulcan, and their disgruntled son Cupid who flees the nest to escape their quarrelling.
After several adventures with various allegorical figures – Deceit, Avarice, Flattery, Friendship – the family is reunited. The librettist is Francesco Sbarra who was born in Lucca. Auser Musici come from the same area of Italy, hence the recording.
This is not an easy work to pull off since the comic aspects require the performers to ‘act with the voice’. Venus (Maria Schiavo) and Cupid (Paolo Lopez) are marvellously equal to the task, as is Friendship (Elena Fedi) who snarls her disdain for Deceit (Carlos Natale) in Act II scene 13, and then vocally melts at his advances later. The orchestra is agile but not always supportive of the drama.
The mock lament that takes place over a chromatic descending bass (Act II scene 2), ideally needs to be performed with a sense of irony, and the squabble between Venus and Vulcan (Act II scene 10) is held back by brilliant but indulgent twiddles on the harpsichord. Most of these singers are accomplished, but the male soprano Paolo Lopez as Cupid is truly exceptional.
The sound is good and the music is well-crafted with some echoes of Monteverdi’s Poppea from 25 earlier (Friendship’s Act III aria ‘Festeggia mio core’). Anthony Pryer