Christina Pluhar’s ensemble L’Arpeggiata explores opera extracts by Cavalli

Pluhar’s arrangements vary the timbres with a battery of exotic instruments

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COMPOSERS: Francesco Cavalli
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Cavalli: L’amore innamorato
WORKS: L’amore innamorato: extracts from Il Giasone, La Calisto, La Rosinda, L’Artemisia, L’Eliogabalo & La Didone; plus music by Kapsperger & Falconieri
PERFORMER: Núria Rial, Hana Blazˇíková (soprano); L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar
CATALOGUE NO: Erato 2564616643

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Christina Pluhar’s ensemble L’Arpeggiata celebrates its 15th anniversary with this fragrant potpourri of opera extracts by Francesco Cavalli – the Puccini of the mid 17th century.

The all-pervasive theme is love, as the collection’s title (taken from a lost Cavalli opera) implies. We hear varied excerpts from Cavalli’s La Calisto, about the mythological nymph seduced by Jupiter in drag, the music by turns wistful, sensuous, playful. By way of contrast are the tragic and passionate outpourings of the forsaken Queen Dido (La Didone), hypnotic laments over ground-basses (the Baroque’s answer to the Blues), and the plaintive expressions of star-crossed lovers in L’Artemisia.

All the vocal numbers are for the soprano voice, though Pluhar’s arrangements vary the timbres with a battery of exotic instruments (psalteries, lirone, cornetto, Baroque harps and guitars) while Hana Bla‑íková’s limpid sound contrasts well with Núria Rial’s smokier tones. After L’Arpeggiata’s recent forays into jazz, popular and cross-over repertoires, it is good to hear them return to Baroque music – and on dazzling form.

The bonus DVD is a generous miscellany of clips from the ensemble’s past concerts and recordings. There are foot-tapping Tarantellas and Hispanic dances along with Baroque ‘hits’ by Monteverdi and Purcell. The instrumentalists are joined by some of their favourite collaborators, including the distinctive voices of tenor Marco Beasley, folk singer Lucilla Galeazzi, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and The King’s Singers. Their ever-stylish performances are creatively filmed in some glorious and atmospheric locations: a feast for both the eyes and the ears.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti